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4/3/2012
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Google Wallet Gains Currency With TxVia Acquisition

Google will use TxVia's technology to become a player in the growing prepaid card market and make Wallet more of a platform.

Amid several high-profile departures from its Google Wallet team, Google has acquired New York-based payment technology company TxVia to enhance its digital payments service.

Google VP Osama Bedier announced the acquisition in a blog post on Monday, characterizing the deal as a way to complement the capabilities of its Google Wallet payment service and to "accelerate innovation towards our full Google Wallet vision."

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Google Wallet offers a way to store mobile payment service credentials on one's mobile phone. The phone user can make purchases using any of those services--MasterCard PayPass, for example--through NFC technology, which enables wireless payments. Along with the capability to make payments, Google Wallet supports online offers and loyalty point programs.

[ Google is working to expand the reach of its Wallet. Read Google Wallet Open To Sprint Customers. ]

News of the deal comes just as payment industry publication NFC Times is reporting that Rob von Behren, one of the two engineers who started the Google Wallet project, left Google in January to join Square, a rival mobile payment system. That was the same month, Jonathan Wall, the other co-founder of Google Wallet, left Google to co-found Tappmo, a startup mobile payment service. With him went Google Wallet product lead Marc Freed-Finnegan.

Adding to the sense that Google Wallet is adrift, Google Commerce VP Stephanie Tilenius in January shifted from overseeing Google's mobile payment efforts to developing Google's commerce capabilities internationally. Tilenius was one of two former PayPal executives--the other being Bedier--hired by Google to helm its Wallet project, prompting a breach-of-contract lawsuit from PayPal last May.

The mobile payment market is particularly active right now because there's no dominant player and considerable growth is anticipated. Apple is expected to be a contender with its next iPhone, which many expect will include NFC hardware for wireless payments. AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile are working together in a consortium called ISIS, which will provide mobile payment services. Google has been trying to promote Google Wallet. Square, which allows merchants to accept credit cards using small square card reader that plugs into mobile devices, has been growing quickly. PayPal has jumped into the fray with a plug-in card reader of its own: a triangle rather than a square. And startups like Tappmo abound.

Even in the app market, things are far from settled. Moving to compete with Google and Apple, Amazon is testing its own in-app purchasing system to allow it to sell goods and services through the Android-based apps in the Amazon App Store, according to Bloomberg.

With TxVia, Google may be better able to convince businesses that it is offering a service rather than threatening to come between companies and their customers. TxVia allows businesses to implement electronic payments through its platform-as-service model.

To hammer home that we-come-in-peace message, Bedier observes that TXVia is certified with "and directly connected to the major payment networks, which establishes a solid foundation for Google Wallet and our partners to drive innovation on a global scale and in a partner friendly way."

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