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Amex: Partnerships required for mobile payments

American Express executive Dan Schulman: It's clear mobile and commerce are on a collision course.

Dan Schulman, group president of American Express' enterprise growth unit, speaking at CTIA today Roger Cheng/CNET

SAN DIEGO--No single company can catapult mobile payments into mainstream use, said American Express executive Dan Schulman, who called for more partnerships between the financial and wireless worlds.

"All of us need to play together," Schulman said today during his keynote address at the CTIA Enterprise & Applications show. "All of us have strengths and capabilities we bring to the table."

Schulman himself straddles both worlds. He is the group president of American Express' enterprise growth unit, which is responsible for mobile payments. Prior to that, he ran Virgin Mobile USA and Sprint Nextel's prepaid, and was a longtime AT&T executive.

Schulman used his keynote to talk about American Express' Serve digital wallet, which he said is an example of an open platform. Serve can link to any credit card or banking account, and can work on any device or operating system. It also works today, and is ready for NFC when it becomes a more widely used technology.

American Express is just one of several parties looking to bring mobile payments to consumers. Earlier this year, Google launched its Wallet application, which features an NFC chip that allows individuals to wave their phones in front of special checkout terminals to make a payment. Three of the national carriers have aligned under a joint venture called Isis, which is attempting its own NFC rollout next year. Credit card giant Visa also has its own mobile-wallet initiative.

All of the companies have talked about the benefits of opening up their systems, though many are opting to go their own route for now.

Schulman also used the keynote to lay out his vision for the benefits of mobile payments. He believes that eventually, individuals will be able to go into a store and digitally share details such as brand preferences, coupons, and budget, allowing the retailer to create a custom offer based on those factors. Consumers would be able to more efficiently shop, while retailers would be able to better serve their customers and track the effectiveness of their offers.

"This represents a fundamental shift," Schulman said. "It's clear mobile and commerce are on a collision course."

Schulman doesn't believe that the mobile payments revolution will occur today, tomorrow, or even next year. Instead, he believes it will occur over the next few years.

"By partnering together, we can take that vision and turn it into reality," he said.