Google in talks to buy Softcard, the carriers’ NFC payment app

Google logoTechCrunch is reporting that Google is in talks to buy Softcard (formerly ISIS), the mobile payments company started by AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. The report states that the price "may be under $100 million" which would be a steep loss for the carriers, which have pumped "hundreds of millions" into the company.

Softcard is an NFC payments app, like Google Wallet and Apple Pay, which allows users to buy things with their smartphones. When Softcard was founded in 2010, Google Wallet was the only mobile payment app in town. With the growing power of Android, the carriers basically created Softcard as a "No Google Club" that they hoped would prevent Google from controlling the mobile payment space. The three companies, Verizon especially, spent the next few years trying to get a Softcard app off the ground while blocking Google Wallet from their devices.

Apparently Softcard hasn't been doing very well, early this month it laid off 60 employees. On LinkedIn, the official company profile pegs it as having "201-500 employees," so that works out to 12 to 30 percent of its workforce. One of TechCrunch's sources says the company is burning through $15 million a month. If Softcard isn't getting a ton of traction and after seeing Apple Pay hit the market, the carriers might be ready to throw in the towel and liquidate their payments experiment.

Google in talks to buy Softcard, the carriers’ NFC payment app

Google buying the company would certainly be ironic. It would be purchasing a clone of its own products, but apparently Softcard managed to snap up some patents that would be of use to Google. Google could also shut it down and have less competition, though right now the company's primary focus is probably Apple Pay.

If the Google sale doesn't go through, the report says another option for the company would be a buyout of the joint venture by Verizon or AT&T.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Google

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