Beam Me Up, It’s A Team Up

Well I confess an econogeek like me is pretty excited about Wal-Mart, Target, CVS, and a few others were teaming up to make their own automatic payment system.  I’m excited because, well, it’s interesting and I like technology, and of course it promises to have lots of job potentials and opportunities.

Stephen Carpenter of laid out his thoughts at Venture Beat in a nicely categorized article that you should read.  He points out the data exchange advantages, the cost reduction, etc.  Two things struck me that are important for progeeks out there in finance and technology.

First, Carpenter notes frankly that consumers do NOT want a bunch of solutions to payments.  They want one, maybe two, and they want them to work.  Whatever happens out there in autopayments, at best I see 2 maybe 3 real alpha payments on top – and probably really 1-2.  Simply, there’s no room for too many, and even if a solution is just a frankenstinian combination of many solutions, it’s still one solution on the consumer end.

I think he’s entirely right, and the takeaways are:

  • If you work in mobile and electronic payments remember there can only be a few – maybe even one true – winners in this space.  If you’re not sure you’re going to be them, you need to keep your eyes open or prepare for acquisition.  If you are sure you’re working at the winner, then you need to go to a therapist to check your delusions of grandeur.
  • This market is going to shake out at some point.  Be ready for it.
  • This could accelerate further mobile adoption of various technologies.
  • What will amazon and other tablet makers do – since people may want to use said devices for payments as well since they’re omnipresent.

But there’s one other thing – and that’s the presence of Wal-Mart.

Now I’m no fan of Wal-Mart – you know that.  Sure I’ve wondered if they may go hip and high tech – and if it could save them, though it sounds like they’re doing better lately.  Indeed, this mobile move may be a good sign they’re trying to do more and be more upscale.

However, Wal-Mart seems to operate with a very extraction-driven methodology.  So my concern is their involvement in this mobile project could result in them looking more to slash costs and increase sales to the detriment of a larger, functional, long-term sustainable project.  The temptation will be there to get as much out of it as possible, and I can’t see their partners being as enthused.

So I’m concerned this project may turn into one of the failures, or shatter into several pieces, or have to go much larger to avoid the possibility of Wal-Mart trying to overuse it.  Yes, I know they’re going more high-tech, but I fear out of all of the members of this alliance, they’re the ones that may think too short-term.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at