July 9, 2012

Apple: Taking Their Sweet Time On Building The Future

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

One of Apple´s many idiosyncrasies is the way in which they change: Always quick to kill and slow to adopt. Examples of this behavior dot Apple´s history, from killing the iPod Mini (one of their best-selling products) just a year and a half after its introduction to adding USB 3.0 two years after other companies started employing the technology in their machines. They´re cautious, slow approach to adding new features (especially those they didn´t think of) is the reason so many Apple fans make the joke “Finally!

Take, for instance, Near Field Communications. Other phone manufacturers, like Nokia, Samsung and others, have been using NFC since 2006 and 2010, respectively. This technology works by bringing two devices in close proximity to one another to transfer data. Sounds sexy, right?

The “sexy” part comes into play when you begin to discuss the possibility of using NFC as a payment system, with your hard earned cash acting as the “data” transferred from one device to another.

Google has partnered with Visa to help roll out this kind of network, and allow users to pay with their phones, but it hasn´t taken off yet.

As is often the case, many have looked to Apple to fix the problem. After all, though there are numerous issues to be addressed in rolling out a network wherein someones personal financial data is stored on something often left behind in bars, Apple could be the one to make this technology widely accessible. With a new phone on the way and their popularity at an all time high, Apple could be ready to pounce in just a few months.

Now, the Wall Street Journal has taken a look at Apple´s “Go-Slow” approach, specifically as it pertains to mobile payments.

The article lists a statistic from market-research firm Gartner Inc., which predicts people all over the world could spend as much as $600 billion via mobile payments in just 4 year´s time, up from $172 billion this year. As such, Google, Microsoft and others are looking to gain significant ground in this space, and soon.

Google has already started to roll-out their Google Wallet, though its availability is limited. Microsoft announced plans to have their own wallet system last month.

Apple, on the other hand, has said almost nothing about the issue, with the exception of their introduction of Passbook last month, a mere hint that Apple could roll out mobile payments, if they wanted to.

According to the Wall Street Journal piece, there were some Apple engineers who wanted to be aggressive with their mobile payment strategy and roll out a solution sooner. Apple, as they often do, chose to take a slower approach, letting those first out of the gate to make the mistakes while Apple takes notes. According to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, this behavior is key to understanding Apple´s personality.

"Apple is always a comfortable number two," says Munster.

"They let their competitors do their market research for them."

Apple´s “go-slow” approach is often interpreted by the general public as a smug aloofness. After all, Apple is quick to roll out their own technology, even if the rest of the world doesn´t share their enthusiasm. The most recent example: Thunderbolt.

Despite that this isn´t Apple´s technology, there is plenty to be cautious about. Apple cares intensely about their customer experience, and as soon as one of these mobile transactions goes sour, Apple could stand to lose customers.

The new iPhone is expected to be released sometime this fall, probably in October. We´ll find out then if Passbook is much more than a digital folder for cards and tickets, or if Apple plans to leverage their more than 400 million iTunes customers to create a world-class mobile payment solution.