Open your wallet to Google

Search juggernaut's rumored Gbuy system could be first piece in broad e-commerce payment infrastructure. Or not.

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.

Give Google credit for one thing: The search giant has a way of generating a lot of buzz.

This week, possibly as soon as Wednesday, Google is expected by many to unveil a new Internet payment system. It may start out as an online wallet but could become a PayPal-like infrastructure for payments across the Web, handling everything from skis to music and videos, analysts said Tuesday.

Interesting as that may sound, Google execs have actually said little about this service publicly. But--as has been the case with most other assumed product launches, from the successful Google Earth to the so-called co-founder Larry Page was supposedly going to unveil at the Consumer Electronics Show in January but never did--that hasn't stopped Google watchers on Wall Street and in the blogosphere from going into high predictive mode.

"There is quite a bit of excitement and buzz among merchants," about Google Gbuy, as reports have called it, said Safa Rashtchy, an analyst at Piper Jaffray.

have been circulating for months. Two weeks ago, Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt confirmed that the company was testing a system that aimed to speed online purchases, but he said it would not compete directly with eBay's PayPal. The system is targeted at advertisers and not general consumers, Schmidt said during a meeting in New York hosted by Conde Nast's Portfolio business magazine, without elaborating.

Google released a vague statement Tuesday saying: "Billing and payments have historically been a part of Google's advertising programs and online services. As we've previously announced, we offer users the ability to buy items on Google Base and at the Google Store as well as pay for services like Google AdWords, Google Video and Google Earth. We have nothing specific to announce at this time."

Perhaps coincidentally, company executives also were scheduled to host a talk on "Micro-payments trends and news" at Google's Mountain View, Calif., office Thursday night. The talk was part of a scheduled meeting of BayPay, a networking group for people who work in the payment industry in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Even if Google isn't publicly spelling out the details of its payment system, other people are doing it for the search king. As a wallet system, Gbuy would let shoppers carry their payment information around to multiple different merchants and save them the time of having to enter their credit card and billing data every time they shop, Rashtchy said. Users are expected to be offered rebates, and merchants can get discounts on ads.

Gbuy has been billed by some reports as a "PayPal killer," but it's likely to be much more, Rashtchy and other analysts said.

"I think that if this thing succeeds, it will eventually succeed where PayPal hasn' an efficient payment mechanism for a wide range of e-commerce transactions," Rashtchy said.

It would also succeed where Yahoo and Microsoft have failed, he predicted. Rashtchy said he used to use Yahoo Wallet, which lets people store their credit card and billing information when shopping on the Yahoo network. However, it didn't gain traction with merchants, he said.

Yahoo did not respond to a request for comment.

Two years ago, Microsoft began paring back its Passport service, which provided authentication and centralized storage for credit card numbers, and single sign-in for Microsoft accounts. Last year, eBay announced it would no longer allow its customers to log in through Passport. Passport is evolving into Windows Live ID.


Correction: This story incorrectly stated the date of Forrester analyst Charlene Li's blog. It was posted last year.
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