Frank Maduri is Research In Motion's (RIM) senior director for Mobile Wallet, and is currently in Australia to address Terrapin's annual Cards and Payments Conference in Sydney. His side mission, however, is to meet with various local near-field communications (NFC) stakeholders to drive adoption and form partnerships for the future of the BlackBerry NFC ecosystem.
RIM has pledged to build NFC capabilities into all of its products going forward, and is now reaping the benefits of that promise. Several NFC-enabled BlackBerry smartphones are now on the market, with features like BlackBerry Tag — which enables content sharing via "tapping" — driving adoption.
RIM is also committed to the use of NFC for payments, with Visa recently certifying the BlackBerry Bold 9900/9790 and the BlackBerry Curve 9360/9380 for use with its payWave platform.
Maduri believes that Australia is leading the way with contactless payments thanks to a huge contactless push from retailers and card providers. He cited efforts by MasterCard and Visa, as well as Coles and Woolworths, as driving contactless payment adoption locally.
He described Australia as "the perfect market" for NFC innovation, and will work to drum up support during his visit.
"I'm down here to meet with stakeholders and see who we can help out," he told ZDNet Australia.
Maduri's comments come one day after a senior executive with the Commonwealth Bank said that he wouldn't pick BlackBerry as a winning horse in the mobile race.
General manager for online banking Drew Unsworth told ZDNet Australia yesterday that fewer and fewer customers are logging on with the Commonwealth Bank via a BlackBerry device. Unsworth added that for this reason, the bank is unlikely to pour significant developer resources into the platform.
"I see the platforms ending up being a three-horse race. You'll have Windows in one corner, iPhone in another and Android in a third [corner]. I can't see us investing in BlackBerry, for example. We just don't see the usage of it," he said yesterday.
Maduri said that it's his job to coax companies like Commonwealth Bank back into the fold while he's here.
"One of the reasons that I'm here ... is to meet partners like them, and obviously I have to do a good job to convince them that there's a reason to work with our devices."
Maduri said that RIM is still a giant of a company that's still experiencing high growth in some markets. He is confident that the BlackBerry brand will triumph.
"We have to win people back, and we're investing in NFC and investing in other areas of the business, as well. We're going to win them back," he said.
The Commonwealth Bank outed its first efforts at an NFC-based payment product for mobile phones last year, with the Kaching app and case for the popular iPhone, while other banks, including Westpac and the National Australia Bank (NAB), have expressed a desire to launch an NFC product using a chip embedded in a device.
Maduri said that it's only a matter of time before the Swiss army knife-like smartphone, complete with NFC, replaces the wallet altogether.
(Front page image credit: Numbers image by Declan Jewell, CC2.0)