Last week saw significant media coverage given over to the hot topic of mobile payments and mobile money. The concentration of news is partly down to the motivating influence of conferences and trade shows on corporate PR teams – in one week on the West Coast alone the annual Sprint Developers Conference, PayPal’s Innovate event and Rutberg’s Wireless Influencers kept the PR folks busy.

Mobile Payments and Mobile Money

Mobile payments have recently taken center stage on the media

And the annoucements came-in thick and fast – PayPal with an optimized digital goods flow, Visa opening its platform to developers, Sprint with an upgraded payments platform for its subscribers. What does it all mean?

At one level it represents a simple revelation to the bigger players about mobile consumer behavior. Consumers are achieving a level of comfort with their mobile devices that makes the possibility of a wide raft of purchases and payments from phones increasingly plausible. Big organizations are motivated by what is happening, entrepreneurs by what could happen. It seems that the big guys are persuaded that the investment in targeting the mobile consumer base is, now, sufficiently de-risked to demand their full attention.

The other significant feature in these announcements is their underlying reliance on partnerships to deliver payment capabilities to the mobile market. The potential scale of mobile commerce is vast – it will dwarf anything that we’ve labeled e-commerce so far. The idea that banks, payment processors, network operators can reach across the ecosystem directly to engage all parties is no longer conceivable.

Therefore Visa has posted a would like to meet with the opening-up of its APIs. Sprint is dating with a few payment partners through its new commerce platform. And PayPal is perhaps the most out there, getting together with a growing number of partners, one or more of whom – it believes – will hold the key to the vast inheritance that is locked-in the mobile payments market.