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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cinematic visions of NFC payments

I get these cinematic visions of how I would roll out a new feature in a product. Here's how I'd handle if if I were Steve Jobs, the product was another iPhone, and the feature was effortless NFC payments.

The scene: it's WWDC time, with the typical stage set up. Black shirt, jeans. Big backdrop. Music is playing. And... there's a Starbucks stand off to the side (but still on-stage). A barista toils behind the counter, doing whatever they do between orders. No audience members are able to get up there.

The show starts. Steve walks out and does his usual thing, talking about the new this, and new that, and numbers, and why this is better than that. Meanwhile, everyone in the audience is wondering WTF is up with the Starbucks guy on stage? They start tweeting and blogging like crazy, trying to figure it out.

At some point, Steve goes, man, all of this talking. Excuse me, folks, I need a drink. So he wanders over to the kiosk and places an order. There's a short exchange between him and the clerk (who happens to be wearing a mic so you can hear what is said). Do you want X on that? Sure. I can afford it. (Call back to some mention of earnings awesomeness from earlier in the show).

Steve turns back to the crowd and makes a little small talk. Then the barista rings it up. "That'll be $4.25, Mr. Jobs". Uh oh. Steve feels for a wallet which isn't there. He acts confused for a second and then goes "oh wait a second", and pulls out the iPhone he had been demonstrating earlier.

He holds the phone up to the cash register's equivalent device. There's some kind of magic happy noise that nobody's ever heard before. That's it, he's paid. No fiddling, no fuss, it Just Worked. The crowd roars.

You couldn't sell a feature like this if it had all of this wonky back and forth stuff like what has been described in articles about other companies trying to do this with vending machines. You have to nail the user interaction first.

That's how I would do the announcement: set up a little mystery to keep people wondering, add a little use case, then handle it with flying colors. What's the alterative? Do you put up a bunch of slides and then have some credit card company people walk out and start talking about leveraging synergy? Who cares? Give me my Starbucks.