Are You Ready for iEconomy?

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The Mophie Credit Card Reader

Jack Dorsey’s Square, Incase, Verifone and now Mophie — these companies’ credit card readers are turning the iPhone/iPod touch platform into an e-commerce engine.

Mophie, a Los Angeles-based company that makes accessories for the iPod/iPhone devices will release a credit card reader at CES in January 2010. The device is going to have a reader and a software that would allow small businesses to take credit cards. No more details are available just yet.

I, for one, would like to see Mophie or one of these other startups come up with a way for me to scan my own credit card to enter it into an app or web site. Even better, I’d love it if they married their hardware with the functionality of something like 1Password. In doing so, they could enable e-commerce via the iPhone apps. Think of it as iEconomy.

I know, I know — it’s easier said than done, considering it would need some deep, system-level mucking around, and Apple isn’t going to let that happen. But it should! By opening up, it would make the iPhone into an even more useful platform.  While I can understand Apple’s hesitation at opening up the iPhone, it can start with iPod touch, which is not tethered to a wireless phone company’s network.

By focusing on the consumers, these companies can also overcome two things: somewhat finite number of likely small business customers and get scale, which would allow them to get cheaper. And this would also help them overcome the slower adoption rates normally encountered when chasing the small business market. In fact, companies such as Visa, MasterCard and large banks should be trying hard to figure out how they can put these kind of readers in the hands of both merchants and consumers, thus shifting even more transactions into the electronic realm.

The Verifone Card Reader

OK, you can see I am just way too excited about this stuff. Why not? I am encouraged to see such experimentation. It ties in with my big belief: the marriage of computing and connectivity without the shackles of being tethered to a location is the the biggest disruptive force of our times, and it will redefine business models for decades.

For a long time, companies like Symbol Technologies, a division of Motorola, have been making point-of-sale and handheld computing devices for non-office environments such as retail locations and warehouses. It is becoming obvious by the day — they are amongst those being disrupted.

I am looking forward to more Mophies and Squares!

This article also appeared on BusinessWeek.com.

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