Three of the biggest U.S. wireless carriers — AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile — just announced a new joint venture, called Isis, which is supposed to lead the carriers’ combined efforts in mobile payments.
This is a big step because getting the carriers to agree on anything is generally very hard to do. But because they are the major mobile phone distributors in the U.S., it’s important. Bravo.
That’s not to say that Isis will work. And, frankly, there’s a good chance it will be a train wreck.
Why? It’s one thing that the carriers have a deal with each other, and with Discover for infrastructure and Barclays as the first issuer, as Isis announced.
But mobile payments are going to be particularly challenging because there are so many players involved and so many mouths to feed.
Beyond the carriers, there are also banks, retailers, Internet payment companies, mobile phone hardware manufacturers, and mobile phone platform companies to satisfy. These include huge companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, RIM, Nokia, Microsoft, Paypal, Motorola, Chase, Citibank, etc.
In particular, will Google and Apple — the two most important mobile platform companies in the U.S., each with its own mobile-payments dream — play along with Isis? Or will they try to lead their own strategy into dominance? That is the question.