Categories
biz

Mobiles versus Wallets

(Calling it a phone anymore is sort of silly. Mobile makes more sense, as a shorthand for mobile device or mobile computer. Better words may come forth, but phone is dead.)

Apple, Inc. is working to bring mobile payments or digital wallets to market. These novel technologies allow you to provide payment information with a mobile computer, rather than through something like a credit card. The market position is that with vendors upgrading their point-of-sale systems to handle more modern chip-and-PIN credit card systems (a response to mass attacks on credit systems of major vendors), they might as well also add digital wallets to the mix.

So far, so good. And maybe this will spell the death of the traditional wallet as mobile payments become the norm. But that is no reason to start thinking of your mobile as your wallet. Wallets are bad enough.

The wallet problem is this: you store important, valuable, or otherwise sensitive documents in your wallet (like currency, or identification). If your wallet is lost or destroyed, you are stuck with rebuilding your lost hoard of necessary items it comprised.

But one of the biggest advantages to digital storage is the ability to have redundant copies of data. If you lose your mobile, it should be a minor inconvenience. You might be sans ID, payment information, etc. for the time it takes to replace the mobile, but you should no longer need to go through the lengthy process of replacing credit cards (i.e., replacing payment data), replacing identification cards (i.e., getting a new driver’s license issued), etc.

Your mobile should be more like a pair of shoes than your wallet. If your shoes are lost or destroyed, it would be an inconvenience. But it wouldn’t be a major life disruption. If the move to digital payment does not come with some simple and fast way to transfer authority to a new device and revoke authority from an old device, and if the digital wallet becomes too much like a real wallet, it will be a disappointing missed opportunity.

That doesn’t mean that everything needs to be cloud-based, or at least not cloud-readable. It mainly means that mobile payments should still require authentication. So, at least a PIN or a biometric check. It might also prove useful to have small amounts available without authentication, with the risk of loss like cash in your wallet if you fail to report a theft before it can be spent.

So how is the mobile payment like a wallet? If pre-authenticated money is in it, it’s got a form of cash. But everything else should be locked down behind authentication. It should not be a major pain to lose it, beyond the cost or aggravation of replacing the device itself.

Even the cash-like money could be triggered only by context. For example, walking into a coffee shop could trigger the availability of what you normally spend, and excess could be revoked if you leave without spending it. Or if you use a transportation app, it could trigger the availability of the payment funds. That could either happen when you hail a cab or enter the subway, or at the time you actually get in the taxi.

And here’s the kicker: if people start buying things with mobiles, why shouldn’t they log in with them? That is, why should they keep creating new logins and passwords for each service, when they don’t have to do that to actually spend money? So at the very least, maybe something good will come from mobile payments beyond just making moving money easier.

Categories
biz

Mozilla’s Advantage in Mobile

One of the major technology spaces still up for grabs is mobile. Apple led out with the i-series of mobile devices (iPhone, iPad), running iOS, while Google came back with third-party manufactured Android and their own Google-designed Nexus devices. Of course, Microsoft has their devices and their mobile operating system, but they are playing catch-up.

Mozilla has come in late with the FirefoxOS, and without plans for their own hardware. Yet they have a distinct advantage.

One of the frustrating things about new technologies from the big three (Apple, Google, and Microsoft) is lack of integration. Especially if you don’t standardize your technology choices on one of them, but even then.

For example, you can subscribe to various publications or buy certain media from these technology vendors (and others, like Amazon), but you don’t necessarily get equal access from all your platforms. Indeed, some of your platforms may be wholly excluded.

That’s the most common case for me, as a Linux user. There isn’t a native client for accessing media on Linux, and the web offering is usually inferior (example, with the streaming music services). In some cases the web offers no solution, mostly in the case of video. A few video providers utilize Adobe Flash, but these require an obsolete library, HAL, to support their copy protection schemes (“DRM”).

But that’s why Mozilla has a strong position: the native web. It lacks some features, but it can gain them. As it develops, it will provide the strongest point for integration between platforms.

Google recently announced their “Play News Stand” application for Android. It’s an application to deliver news to you, and some of the content is purchased. But there’s no web version. There is less incentive than ever for users to buy content that’s only accessible on one device.

Consumers don’t want to switch all their device profiles and operating systems to one vendor simply to gain the marginal benefit of equal access. The economics aren’t there. They don’t get cheaper access. All they get right now is access to one shop per device.

Credit card companies would not be the force they are today if their cards only worked at just one vendor, or even a handful of vendors. True market capitalism requires open markets, and that’s what the web represents, what the web (and any viable replacement for the web) must evolve into.

Mozilla’s road may be rocky in establishing FirefoxOS and its benefits. The web as a platform has much growing up to do (especially in things like having a common user interface for applications developed by different vendors), but it has every sign that it will.

Mozilla is playing the long game here.

Categories
design

Again: Mobile Should Be Many semi-Independent Devices

Edit (10 September 2013): You might like to look at a neat video, YouTube: Dave Hakkens: Phonebloks or the related website phonebloks.com for one designer’s proposal for a first-generation fragmented phone platform.

You see people complain or make fun of people taking pictures with a tablet. You should complain at the tablet makers, though. They are the ones you should make fun of. If the camera wants to dock with the device, fine. But there’s really little reason the camera should be built into the device, other than selling a package for more than the parts, and anti-capitalist barriers to entry.

So yeah, a non-ten-item list of becauses.

Because you can hand someone your camera without handing them your digital life. They can borrow your camera for a trip, and not take your movies and books with them.

Because you can change the data you wear to work and the data you wear after work, just like you change your clothes when you get home.

Because batteries run out, and even if they didn’t, sharing extra battery with a friend or stranger is better than hording it.

Because everyone’s priorities are different, and I don’t want the most megapixels, and you don’t want the physical keyboard, and…

Because the Internet of Things depends on not shoving a screen, speaker, and camera into every toaster, refrigerator, and coffeemaker.

Because it will be easier to add new sensors, for science!

Because holding up a large rectangle to position a tiny camera sensor is just no fun.

Because different photos and recordings require different sensors, lenses, mics, lights…

Because buying your mobile kit one piece at a time costs less, and that’s a more democratic model for spreading technology to everyone.

Because you can hand-me-down your old components to your kids, or trade with your coworkers for the parts that suit you better.

Because it takes the power away from the few companies that can afford to build the bundled equivalents, and gives it back to you.

Because who wants to buy a whole new device when the next generation wireless networks come out?

Because then it will come in your favorite color.

Because a single brick isn’t as wearable as separate parts.

Because it undermines silly arguments against things like tethering, when the radio isn’t integrated to just your device.

Because your preferences in computing should mean more than two brands or the plastic case you wrap around your device.

Because laptops have never been as buildable as desktops, and that’s been a shame.

Because functional capitalism depends on finding ways of competing on the smallest set of differences possible at once.

Because the camera sensor makers will compete on camera sensing abilities, and the processor makers on processing abilities, and so-on.

Because all the parts will compete on price.

Because having a backup shouldn’t mean having an entire, separate device.

Because it will spread at least basic literacy of what a device consists of to the masses.

Because it reminds us that we can do more working together than any superman could ever do by herself.

Because nobody lives a standard-issue life.

Because it’s your equipment, not theirs.

Because I can’t think of everything, and neither can they.

Do you have your own reasons that mobile devices should be split into their parts? Disagree? Feel free to comment!