Talking tech since 2003

Maybe Google would’ve been better off stuffing their cash in a mattress. According to a report on BusinessWeek, Google Wallet is proving to be something of a poor investment for the tech giant. Despite its 2011 launch the hundreds of millions of dollars estimated to have been invested in trying to make the application a success, its paltry user base of under 10 million have many questioning the company’s continued attempts at success in the mobile payments field.

While the reports says that Google won’t reveal just how much cash they’ve stuffed into Wallet already, it estimates that the company has already spent around $300 million just in acquiring digital payment startup companies for development purposes. That doesn’t even count the hours and internal resources Google must have devoted to the application that—two years after its launch—is only allowed by one service provider, perennial third-place finisher Sprint Nextel.

Full disclosure: I have Sprint. And I never use Google Wallet. Because I already have a wallet, and that’s worked just fine so far.

The big idea, it seems, is that Google hopes to collect user data via the app’s use, and in turn sell advertisements specifically targeted at consumers. It’s a nice concept, and certainly one that ought to prove profitable if anyone actually starts to use the application. But given the recent uproar over the NSA’s PRISM program—in which data about American citizens is being collected by the government regardless of people’s desire for privacy—it’s not surprising that plenty of people are happy to keep their credit cards out of their mobile phones.

It’s an ironic and counterintuitive development, of course, considering how enthusiastic consumers have been regarding Amazon. After buying just about anything on the online retail giant, your credit card information and address is stored on Amazon’s servers, ready to be accessed the next time you need to refill on Keurig cups or buy a collection of Pink Panther DVDs. Given how often people buy songs and applications from Google’s Play store, or from Apple’s iTunes, or just about any other online destination that sells something, you’d think that Google Wallet would be a surefire winner. This promotional video extols its many virtues with little in the way of exaggeration:


And yet, no one uses it. Maybe it’s an unwarranted distrust of “the cloud,” or simply folks being afraid to put all of their information in a device that could be stolen or lost in a cab. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that Google needs to find a way to sell users on Wallet’s features so it can find a way make money rather than lose it.

Otherwise, well, Google Mattress has a nice ring to it.

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