"The mobile payments space need not be a winner-take-all scenario. Whichever service or services that offer security, convenience and scale have a strong change for success."
eMarketer - Next Year Your Phone Could Be Your Wallet
eMarketer is not completely right.
You can look at the mobile payments market at two levels. At the platform level and at the operators level.
At the operators level eMarketer is right, mobile payments space won't necessarily be a winner-take-all, in fact in all likelihood it won't be. As in the credit card industry there are many operators (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, etc) and they all can survive because the network effects are not very strong.
But at the platform level eMarketer is wrong. Mobile payments platforms have a very strong incentive to be a winner-take-all market. As in the credit card industry example the platform is the same for all operators. The magnetic band in the card, the card readers at the stores, the security measures and even the way of using the cards are the same for all operators.
Looking at the mobile payments space at two levels is relevant because it is a space not yet developed. This means that incumbents might try to be the first ones deploying its offer and setting their platform as the de-facto standard.
If only one incumbent does this movement and manage to acquire a relevant critical mass its platform will be the de-facto standard. It will necessarily have to be a platform that allows other operators to participate in the market; but being the first in the area would probably have the reward of converting the incumbent in one the most relevant operators.
If more than one incumbent launches its platform (and they are incompatible) the speed of mobile payments deployment will suffer; it might even stop its development until the players (basically the stores) make a decision on which platform is the winner (VHS example) or one of the incumbents leaves the market (blue-ray example).
Credit card companies, banks, mobile operators and online companies are all looking at this space. Many of them have carried tests, but none of them have decided yet to bet strong and launch a platform how this evolves in the coming months will determine if eMarketer is right.
Javier Arias González