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Google Wallet may not have been the hit Google had hoped, but according to a news report, the Silicon Valley giant may try to breath new life into its mobile payments business by tackling not just the digital billfold, but the digital cash register as well.
[company]Google[/company] has been testing new retail point-of-sale software that works on Android or device or integrates with a store’s existing payment processing system, according to a new report from The Information. The service is called Plaso – pronounced “Play-So” – and it allows customers to pay for goods and services by giving their initials to the sales clerk at the register, The Information’s unnamed sources said.
If that sounds like the failed Square Wallet, you’re right. Plaso appears to be using Bluetooth beacon technology to detect Google’s digital payments apps on smartphones physically in the store or near check out. Like Square Wallet, you would say your initials or name so the salesclerk can suss out which of the detected wallet belongs to you, and then I assume some kind of digital transfer of card credentials would occur either from the device or from the cloud.
While the Information wasn’t able to learn much about the technical underpinnings of Plaso, I would also assume other kind of verification would be necessary, whether it’s a photo of the buyer appearing on the merchant’s screen – which is how Square Wallet worked – or an some kind of authorization on the buyer’s phone such as a thumbprint ID or a PIN code. Otherwise the potential for mistakes or outright fraud is too high; of all the forms of identity theft, guessing someone’s initials is probably the easiest to pull off.
There’s no word on when Plaso might see commercial use, and as The Information points out, Google builds and tests many products that never see the light of day.
The report also has it that Square is building its own Android tablet-based payments terminal because it fears a newly retail savvy [company]Apple[/company] will shut Square out of the iOS universe. I find that a bit hard to believe, though.
Square and iPad are often considered inseparable – Square even optimizes new versions of its gadgets for the changing thickness of the iPhone – but Square’s core point-of-sale device, the Reader, already works with Android phones and tablets. In fact, about half of all Square merchants use an Android device. Square’s countertop system Stand only works with iPads today, so I can easily see it developing an Android variant. But I just don’t think it’s a defensive move against Apple.
Apple needs Square and Square needs Apple. Square provides the register, and for it to be successful it needs to accept as many forms as payment as possible, including Apple Pay. Apple is on the other side of the equation. It makes the credit card, and for the Apple Pay to be successful it needs to be accepted by as many merchants as possible.
If either company were to blackball the other, they’d only be shooting themselves in the foot. Sure, Apple is ambitious and it may one day seek to offer its own retail payments service to compete with Square, but if it did so it would then compete with [company]First Data[/company], [company]Chase[/company] Paymentech, [company]Verifone[/company], [company]NCR[/company] and all of the other giants of the retail payments industry as well. Apple built up a lot of goodwill with those companies when it launched Apple Pay, and that goodwill is one of the key reasons for Apple Pay’s initial success. Why just toss it out the window?