PayPal doesn’t just want to be in your mobile phone, or behind the transfer of virtual goods in social networks such as Facebook, where it’s one of the options for the new Facebook Credit payment system, according to President Scott Thompson. He told me during an interview in Toronto recently that he sees the company becoming the default payment engine for your television, your car, your DVD player and even your fridge. Thompson also said that the online payment business is exploding with new competitors in a way he has never seen before, but that PayPal is confident it can retain its edge as more and more transactions move online.
Thompson took issue with critics who have suggested that the company hasn’t been as nimble or as aggressive in the mobile space as it should have been. “We’ve been investing in mobile since 2005, and we continue to invest and improve,” Thompson said. “We fundamentally believe that mobile is a big wave, and one we want to be a part of and take advantage of.” However, he added that PayPal doesn’t want to simply focus on the iPhone or Android devices, that its vision is much larger. “Anything that is at the end of a network should have payment ability,” he said, including portable devices but also more prosaic products such as your TV, your DVD player — even your car.
At some point in the future, Thompson suggested during a keynote interview at this week’s mesh conference (disclosure: I am one of the organizers of the conference), cars will have the intelligence to be able to handle encryption and security, and therefore be able to do payments as well. “Companies are building automation into cars, so that when you pull into a parking spot and you park for 62 minutes, you pay for that 62 minutes,” he said. “Why can’t the car authenticate you when you’re dispensing fuel? Why can’t it authenticate you when you go through a toll booth?” All that is required is a secure payment and authentication system, said Thompson, and that is what PayPal aims to provide.
And what about competitors like Square — the mobile payment startup from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey — or Zong, which recently raised $15 million? Thompson said that Square is “a neat little piece of technology that I’m not sure is going to solve a big problem going forward,” but that he likes the company and has “a good relationship” with Dorsey. The PayPal president also said that the competition in the payment sector “is like nothing I’ve ever seen — it’s really intense,” but that it was a sign of the market potential and that it wasn’t likely to be a “winner-take-all kind of game.”
In the short video clip embedded below, Thompson talks about the company’s strategy and its vision of a future with multiple devices handling payments:
Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): Mobile Market Overview Q1 2010