This is much more important than people realize.
As we've written earlier in our blog, mobile wallets can be best viewed as a type of mobile browser. Just as Internet Explorer and Chrome are portals for us to render display web content, Passbook and other mobile wallets are best understood as portals for us to render and display "Wallet Content" being distributed by retailers, transport, and entertainment venues.
This wallet portal should be open source, spam-resistant, open to creativity, and yet supervised sufficiently to ensure that the platform is free of fraud or scams. Passbook achieves all these goals. We've said it before and we'll say it now: Passbook is architected brilliantly, perfectly balancing safety, openness, and function. Whoever build the base architecture of Passbook was a master of the art.
But until now, it's just been Apple phones. Yes there are 55 million copies of Passbook in the US alone, which is 10X any other shopping app, but still. If you were Target or Sears and you wanted to distribute wallet content to your mobile shoppers (and yes, that is what retailers dream of doing, because the financial benefits are immense) then you don't want 3 different formats. You want a single format.
What we need is WML -- Wallet Markup Language -- a standard for distribution of mobile wallet content.
When we get a WML standard, the floodgates will open to mobile wallet content. As a company that talks every day to retailers, trying to show them the incredible financial benefits of mobile wallets and the potential for mobile wallets to revolutionize the $2.5 Trillion per year brick and mortar shopping industry (yes, we argue that, and get a lot of heads nodding in agreement), the single biggest problem mentioned by retail executives is the need for addressing all types of mobile phones.
Of course, Android users would argue that the Google Wallet format or Samsung Wallet formats are better than Passbook. We would not contradict that argument...surely those Android wallets have their advantages. They are cloud-based and Passbook is file-based...completely different philosophies.
The solution for us wallet developers has been to support both Passbook and Google Wallet, by distributing separate but related content streams. We are doing that now. So we may never get a single standard. We may continue to simultaneously stream Apple and Google formatted content.
But at least Microsoft's support of Passbook points out the value of a standard format. Now that argument is made. We can point to it and say: that is the goal of the mobile wallet...to become like Chrome and IE and Safari, browsers which support a single HTML format.
This is the ideal future of mobile wallets.
Thank you Microsoft!