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Apple’s NEW NFC Patent

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10 April 2010 (updated 14 April)

I’m still reading through the 243 page patent application… but this is exciting… not just because Apple is taking such an aggressive, broad approach.. but because Visa, MasterCard, ATT, … are also about to “pull the trigger” on some very substantive efforts. As a consumer I know that where there is competition… I win!

From a “payments perspective” Apple looks to be expanding the “iTunes wallet” to support NFC: either as an aggregated payment account (apple as issuer), or an “unaggregated” iTunes Prepaid Card model. In the aggregated model, someone like JPMorgan Chase may be the underlying bank and could provide Apple with an average margin of up to 150bps of TPV. This assumes that the NFC interchange holds at 300-350bps as Merchants are not jumping for joy in current pilots (see BestBuy).

In the “iTunes wallet as prepaid card” model Apple’s NFC revenue would be equal to TPV of ACH payments times the average interchange between POS transactions and other (ex P2P) transactions. Given that iPhone customers are rather Savy, I believe they will quickly educate themselves on the stronger Reg Z consumer protections associated with bank cards (as well as the existing rewards programs) keeping Apple’s interchange revenue suppressed to less then 20-50bps of POS TPV. We should not compare Apple to a “PayPal” as the transaction economics will be much different, given PayPal’s role as both issuer and acquirer. Also note that NFC value proposition is focused at the physical POS.

This is not to say that this will be a marginal business for Apple, in fact my view is the opposite, the real revenue streams to apple will not be from “interchange” but from advertising as  iAD provides the “Yang” to the NFC’s “Ying”. Creating a new payment ecosystem means having incented partners. The timing on Apple’s iAD and NFC developments are not accidental, my belief is that they are part of a very solid mCommerce expansion strategy. (note that the iTunes wallet is clearly evident from patent diagram 5A above).

My guess is that JPMorgan Chase and/or BAC will be a launch partner here, specifically on the “googlization” of financial services (see previous blog). The banks have a tremendous amount of data which can be monetized if consumers give permission. Both BAC and JPM have very aggressive exec teams focused on driving new business models. My guess at a value proposition: Consumer accepts a bank disclosure allowing use of your card data for mobile marketing (x ads per month), in return consumer receives rewards/ discounts/ offers.

On the iAD side, Apple will coordinate  iAD mobile advertising, banks provide “propensity to buy” information (for registered consumers) to Apple’s marketing engine, Apple will manage campaigns and share click revenue with banks. The revenue stream for Apple is in mobile advertising, developing a new ecosystem which will create a “win-win” for: consumers, banks and merchants, and Apple’s application development community.

Beyond near term NFC payment at the POS, many questions will arise on the openness of Apple’s NFC API within the iPhone architecture. Will Apple try to lock the wallet? If it is open Apple may loose control of the ecosystem as other “channel masters” emerge. Beyond payment at the POS, NFC/RFID has many applications.. from opening a door at a college campus.. to a price check on the RFID tag of  a new HDTV. I can’t imagine the strategy discussions going on in the Valley this week “What do we build”….

My messages for the start up community:

  • Better to ride a wave then create your own. Find a way to add short term value in this new ecosystem. Visa/AT&T are far ahead in coordinating a launch of products.
  • Network effects: volume, intelligence, routing, expand nodes, …
  • The iAD revenue stream. Find a way to become part of it. Integrating existing marketing programs (ex. NFC on a subway billboard).
  • Beyond the POS to mCommerce/physical confluence. How can you drive sales or store traffic? (ex. will apple integrate an RFID reader?)
  • Supporting banks. Example. Look at page 4 of patent application, taking an image of a credit card/check. How will a bank use this to make an authorization decision?
  • International. Apple has a tendency to design for US markets… what will it take to localize?

Apple’s approach to controlling its ecosystem is not perfect, but is the right thing to do early stage as both technology and consumer behavior evolve (I remember my Apple IIe). Right now my bet on “mobile wallet” is with Apple precisely because of their ability to orchestrate such an extended ecosystem. This is going to be hot, within the US there are currently 3 major competitive teams:

  • Apple (likely with JPM/BAC)
  • ATT/Visa/First Data (possible that they are aligned w/ Apple)
  • Citi/MasterCard (NFC Stickers)

Comments appreciated

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Written by tomnoyes

April 12, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Posted in US

Tagged with , , , , ,