"Larry and Eric personally convinced me" to make the move to Google, Osama Bedier, the company's VP of payments, has told NFC World as he set out Google's commitment to building an NFC platform that is open to all — and revealed that Google Wallet will eventually be able to hold keys, ID credentials and driving licenses.
"This is one of the biggest investments we've made at Google for a very long time," Osama Bedier, the search giant's VP of payments has told NFC World following a presentation at the NFC Payments Europe conference in London today.
Bedier joined Google from PayPal to work on the Google Wallet project five months ago, he explained, because "Larry [Page] and Eric [Schmidt] personally convinced me." Google sees its NFC Wallet and its associated Offers programme as "game changers", he added. "It is in our nature to make big bets... it gives you strategic options down the road."
During his presentation, Bedier sought to allay the suspicion that there will be hidden charges for business users of the Google Wallet and that the system will not be as open as Google has portrayed it. That's "an unfounded suspicion," Bedier emphasised afterwards.
"We're committed to NFC at Google," he told delegates. "The future of commerce will be mobile, local and personal" and Google Wallet and Google Offers are designed to merge "the best of online and offline."
Google Offers and Google Wallet are two separate businesses, Bedier told NFC World. The business model for Google Wallet is a platform play and the company therefore wants as many businesses as possible to sign up in order to grow the overall user base. To that end, Google will not make any charge to companies wishing to provide cards or other services via the Google Wallet app and access will be open to all. "We've created a platform where anyone can play, provided they play by the rules," he explained.
The Google Wallet includes a set of Offers Clippings APIs that are also open to all. Google itself will use these for its own Google Offers service and the company expects to make money here in the same way as it does online — by charging businesses for putting their promotions in front of potential new customers.
Businesses wishing to use the APIs to send promotions to their existing customers, however, will not be charged by Google. Retailers wishing to use the service to send promotions to their loyalty card holders, for instance, will be able to do so without paying a fee to Google. And any company will be able to access the APIs to provide NFC promotions — even direct competitors such as Groupon and Facebook. "When we grow this space, it helps our core business," Bedier explained. "We're going to take all the necessary steps to accelerate the market."
Will that include free payments terminals for merchants? "I don't believe in the model where Google pays for the terminals," Bedier told NFC World, explaining that the benefits built into Wallet and Offers should provide sufficient incentive without the need to give away terminals. But "we are working with the merchants to remove hurdles" and a number of incentives are likely to become available.
In the future, Bedier added, Google Wallet will support a full range of NFC services including keys and credentials such as driving licenses. "Anywhere there's a line, your mobile wallet should be able to help," he added. A lot of things that should have moved online haven't because there isn't yet a way to authenticate identity securely, he explains. Google plans to leverage Google Wallet and its base of 600 million Google Account holders to begin changing that. But, he points out, "this is not something Google should do alone... This can only be done as an open ecosystem."
And, Bedier confirmed, the company has international plans for Google Wallet too. "We definitely want to come to Europe in 2012," he told delegates.
• The organisers of NFC Payments Europe are bringing the event to the US later this year. NFC Payments USA will take place on 2-3 November 2011 in Miami, Florida. Further details are available on the NFC Insight website.