As anticipated, Google announced its mobile wallet initiative today - an app called Google Wallet.
There was a pretty long presentation with lots of financial services partners talking about how excited they are, etc. But the long and short of it is this is Google's official NFC-driven mobile wallet product, and it has managed to get the collaboration of many of the other stakeholders required to make such a thing work.
This was very much an early look; Google Wallet is still at the field testing phase and will initially be a US-only thing. But if it takes off over there, there's no reason why it shouldn't spread to the global Android ecosystem before long.
Google was keen to stress how ‘open' this initiative is - i.e. the more the merrier. That makes sense, of course, because the Google Wallet will only become useful when most retailers accept it. Here's a rather corporate video featuring some retailers who are hot for the idea.
The partners unveiled at the event were Citi, MasterCard, First Data (payment processing) and Sprint. Of course there are already handsets such as the Nexus S that have the NFC technology required for ‘tap and pay' functionality.
Initially the app will support both the Citi MasterCard and a Google Prepaid card. once its up and running, people will be able to tap supporting handsets to and MasterCard PayPass NFC terminal. There was also the unveiling of Google Offers - also at quite an initial stage, which looks like a Groupon type thing and will also be linked to the Google Wallet.
One company that wasn't there, but is seriously chuffed with Google being so proactive about NFC stuff, is NXP, which is the inventor of NFC chips and market leader, including the one in the Nexus S. It wasted little time in pushing out a press release celebrating the Google Wallet announcement.
"NXP provides the complete embedded, secure NFC solution for Google Wallet and was instrumental in building this new application with Google," said the release. "The NXP PN65 NFC mobile transaction solution incorporates the NFC radio controller, the embedded secure element and NFC software in a single device."
While this technology is still at an initial phase, there's clearly a lot of momentum behind the mobile wallet. Apple will no doubt get involved when it sees fit but with the growing ubiquity of Android, Google is arguably the most significant player in bringing the mobile wallet to the mainstream, and this looks like a big step in the right direction. You can find out more here.