Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is finally ready to articulate its mobile-payments strategy at an event Thursday in New York, according to several reports. Google began sending invitations to a “partner event” on Sunday, where it is now expected to unveil a service with Sprint (NYSE: S) and several major retailers, including Macy’s and Subway.
Mobile payments have been on Google’s mind for quite some time, first aired in public last November at the Web 2.0 conference by now executive chairman Eric Schmidt, when he showed off what would become the Nexus S and talked about how Google is planning to build around the NFC (near-field communications) standard so that mobile phone users can simply wave their phones to pay for purchases. But it has been coy ever since, a silence that will apparently end Thursday according to reports from Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal.
Details are still a bit sketchy, but Google appears to be prepared to demonstrate how Android phones can be used as mobile wallets and will announce commitments from retailers to implement the technology. Mobile payments are a very tricky thing: not only do you need the right hardware and software on both the phones and at the point of payment to get things rolling, but you also need sophisticated back-end systems to process everything and the ability to convince the public that such a method is secure and reliable.
So far Sprint has chosen to go it alone with its own mobile payments strategy, instead of joining forces with the other major U.S. carriers–AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon, and T-Mobile–on a joint venture called Isis, which is also trying to build out a mobile payments system.
We’ll be in attendance Thursday for Google’s event, which comes amid a land rush into the mobile payments market by everyone from handset makers and payment processors to wireless carriers and startups like Square, which unveiled a new product Monday designed to encourage mobile phones to be more like credit cards.