Google Wallet is a software product designed to replace the physical credit cards most of us carry around and use to pay for things. It's a version 1.0 product, which means it's limited and not that useful - at least yet.
But Google Wallet shows us the future of mobile payments - and that future is just a couple of years away.
But this will quickly change as more phones and credit cards add Google Wallet support. Helping this to happen is Google's partners.
MasterCard is leading the charge on the merchant side. They've installed over 150,000 Google Wallet enabled payment terminals across the U.S. The picture shows Google Wallet in action with a MasterCard payments terminal.
You can also safely assume most new Motorola smartphones will support Google Wallet (for those living in a cave, Google is in the process of acquiring Motorola). We also expect other phone companies and Google Wallet competitors to add NFC support (click here for a description of NFC and mobile payments).
Google Wallet opens up lots of interesting possibilities for retailers. It quickly will become the place consumers store digital coupons and loyalty cards. It will also enable location-based services of all kinds and be the system used to deliver the growing arrays of "daily deals."
It's another step on the path to a world where the smartphone is our "remote control for life."
It's time for small businesses to start to better understand and plan for the world of mobile payments. Yes, it will still be a couple of years before it's common for consumers have NFC/Google Wallet enabled phones. But 2012 will see a lot of early adopters - Gen Yers and techies in particular - buy phones with these capabilities.