Jeff Fagel of edo Interactive had a guest post on GigaOm yesterday about how Passbook is destined to go the way of Ping and die a slow ignominious death while Apple moves onto the next shiny thing. I think Jeff isn’t just dead wrong, but counting Apple out way, way too early.
At the beginning of his post Jeff makes the logical blunder that, I think, is the reason why he thinks Passbook is doomed:
This fall, the launch of Passbook marked Apple’s first foray into the crowded arena of alternative mobile payment schemes. Considering its well-founded reputation for producing disruptive tech, it’s tempting to assume Passbook is destined to do the same. And there’s certainly an argument to be made that the company has some distinct advantages in its favor – not least, a fanatical and still-growing iOS user base of tens of millions in the U.S. alone.
From: Why Passbook could join Ping in the Apple graveyard — GigaOm
Right, “alternative mobile payment schemes”. See, while I know Apple is touting this as part of Passbook, I don’t think that’s the real play at all. The real play is moving us away from all the silly paper tickets, loyalty cards, coupons, and other cruft that not only clutters our wallets, pockets, bags (purses too), but becomes trash that has to be dealt with.
I’m a pretty anti-paper kind of person. I don’t like having or using it when I don’t have to. Yes, I love my fountain pens (inky fingers since 1986), notebooks (Field Notes brand for pockets and all my bags, Moleskine for scribbles), and other writing ephemera I hate unneeded paper. Movie and show tickets, yes I’ve kept the ticket stub from the first opera I went to (also the first time I watched my then-girlfriend, now-wife perform on stage), but really we don’t need them and Passbook wants to fix that.
This is the crux of it. Apple is betting that all of us are tired of dealing with those antiquated things and would like something to replace them with. The other key is that Apple is betting that one barrier to larger-scale adoption is that there isn’t a big name backing the idea. Apple is a big name. Apple has its devices in millions of hands. If Passbook succeeds, it could very well leap across to other devices (if Apple shares, I know not a safe bet there). The reality is that I don’t think Apple really wants to get rid of debit or credit cards…
Passbook then is at best a novelty at this point. While there’s certainly the possibility Apple will revamp the app wholesale, and in turn gain meaningful traction, I’m more inclined to put my money on the bet it’s destiny is to join poor Ping in the ignominious Apple Graveyard. I think that nothing will replace ubiquitous credit and debit card payment systems until a service comes along that is a dramatically simpler solution, or offers compelling additional functionality that encourages people to leave their cards (and wallets!) at home. Given Apple’s dominance as the mobile device of choice around the world, Passbook has as strong a shot of success as anyone, but only if they figure out how to overcome these limitations. Until then, plastic will still be king.
The novelty will be that we can forget about slips of paper, coupons, or similar non-critical cards and just worry about keeping our phones handy (which are already, aren’t they?). Not payments, paper, that’s what Apple is really after.