Mobile Operators Stumble on Billable Identities, Apple Swoops In
The mobile operators have made a huge mistake on the identity front. The one long-term point of value they have aside from being a bit pipe is the possession of validated identities tied to a mobile billing platform. But with their continuing efforts to maintain their walled gardens, they have passed on the opportunity to become the identity and billing providers of choice on the mobile.
Now there is another mobile player with this capability. Apple. Not only does the new iTunes wifi store not deliver music over the operator network, the billing is not enabled by the operator.
An enlightened move by Apple would be to break the lock the operators have on billable mobile identities permanently wide open by giving every iTunes account an associated OpenID, and publishing an open payment API around OpenID identifiers. This would cause a few things to happen:
– a 100% uptake of OpenID within days by makers of iPhone apps
– a practical, simple billing mechanism for OpenID apps of all types
– overnight Apple could become the largest payment provider in the mobile space. Not just on the iPhone, but on any reasonably web capable phone owned by an iTunes user. Not just in the mobile space. Anyone with an iTunes account would be a payment-capable.