Convergence has become the buzzword for technology that aspires to be in the collective ‘wish-list’ of the discerning techno geeks.
Be it mobile phones, do-all personal computers, music players, refrigerators, intelligent ACs and the list goes as long as The Great Wall of China and a bit more! Embedded technology has made every dream gadget possible and if cost wouldn’t have been a dampener every one would have acquired what they wanted to have to increase their convenience and comfort.
The moot point here is whether companies would be able to match their pace of innovations with the consumer’s need for new toys to flaunt. A path breaking product like an Apple iPod has sold an obscene number of units worldwide and is a must buy on every music lover’s list. Now what makes an iPod a runaway winner? Agreed that it’s from ‘Apple’… comes in a wide variety and can store and play an immense number of songs… but it has done a bit more than that. It has almost become synonymous with what Sony Walkman was until a few years back. It has become the symbol, the flag bearer of cool, uber and fashionable music player. It's ease of operation has added that gloss which makes competitors shy away from launching a full fledged war head-on… atleast not with the ‘iPod’! Now we have our mobile phones embedded with blue tooth, mp3 players, digital cameras, net connectivity et al. And the mobile service operators are raking in the moolah not only from the data and voice transfer… they are indeed laughing all the way to another telecom circle after they have started providing sms services like astrology, news, dating as well as facilitating the downloading of video clips, ringtones, singtones, callertunes and through tie-ups with popular contests like KBC, Indian Idol etc whereby viewers’ are asked to send sms that costs almost 5 or 10 times more than the normal rate to take part in the viewer’s contests.
Now to move on to the next point of discussion, which I am sure, would find a congruent node with a lot of people.
Imagine going through one of those cyber malls and coming across an exceptionally good deal on a digital camera that you wanted to give to your sister on her birthday. You follow the usual procedure of filling up your name, address and telephone number and at the very last page you are informed that payments can be made only through a credit card. You seethe with anger and dejection as owning a credit would be like living far, far beyond your means. Besides in your small city credit cards doesn’t have much utility value either.
Imagine after a hard week’s slog in the office you are taking the weekend off to catch up with much needed sleep. After hitting the sack you immediately fall into instant nirvana… and lo! Within a few minutes the relentless ringing of the cellfone jostles you up and you wonder who was it?!“Hello sir! I am calling from xyz bank. Would you like to get a credit card from our bank? We are giving an early bird offer to the first 100…”You interrupt the lady on the other end and try to mask your anger with an air of artificial chivalry and tell her that you already own one such credit card. The lady apologizes profusely as if she has just entered the White House without Presidential consent and hangs up after wishing you a great day!! You lie down on your back and stare at the ceiling. You have lied to the sales lady about you owning a credit card already. Your modest job doesn’t even permits you to harbor any dreams of acquiring a credit card although you would like to avail of the convenience of ‘anytime, anywhere money!’ Angry, sleepless and without a credit card you try to fall asleep again.
Now if we can somehow combine the second part of this article (about mobile phones) with the previous one (about credit cards) maybe we can work out a solution to all the inconveniences. Can we find an answer to all the credit card blues or rather the lack of it in the ubiquitous mobile phone? Can a mobile phone become to online transactions/paper less currency what an iPod has become to on-the-go music? The answers are waiting to be worked upon… and let us explore a bit more.
Suppose you enter a shopping mall and happen to buy an expensive set of digital camera. Instead of paying cash you can type in the codename of that store (allocated to them by the mobile service provider after becoming part of the ‘mobilecash’ network) just as we type in the answers in one of those contests in TV. Let’s assume the store-code is KDK and we have to pay an amount say Rs.10000. The payment mode would be like:PAY KDK 10000
What happens after that is your account gets debited (if you have the requisite currency in the mobile card) or it can play the role of a full-fledged credit card. The service provider gets a small percentage of the transaction from the accredited store as well as from the user . The credit limit can be set after ascertaining the customer’s salary and income level. Although security might become an issue but in the days of multi-digit encryption I guess our electronic engineers can work around that and make it fully reliable. The store or the Internet site must become an accredited member of the mobile network before availing of the ‘mobilecash’ facility. Depending on mobilecash’s popularity it can open up endless possibilities like paying our utility bills, paying for petrol, getting a movie ticket amongst others. Imagine a credit card like ‘mobilecash’ that doesn’t charge like one and provides even an average Joe the convenience of paperless money. Technology thrives when there are competition and people benefits out of such a situation. Maybe this idea has been thought of in the past since people nowadays think almost alike! But is it an idea worth pursuing? My answer will be as good as yours!