Thursday, September 20, 2012

Launch Of An Empty Wallet

Apple launched iOS6 yesterday, with it's much touted Passbook app, allowing you to aggregate your tickets, boarding basses, loyalty cards, payment cards and more. Except a funny thing happened as part of the launch: there's nothing in the app. When you fire it up, you get a nice looking description of what could be there, and an invitation to hit up the App Store to go get some apps that talk to Passbook. What apps did they launch with? Fandango, Live Nation, Lufthansa, MLB.com At Bat, Sephora to Go, Ticketmaster, and Walgreens.

What this means is that, on the all-important day for Passbook to be unveiled to the world, the only people who could appreciate it happened to be flying to Germany, heading to a baseball game, concert or movie, or getting a gift card from the place that says you care so much, Walgreens. Wow. In all of the demos of Passbook, we saw United Airlines (the US' largest air carrier), Starbucks, and more. The fact that Apple didn't partner up with just one or two of the nation's large retailers with a huge loyalty program so that Passbook users could at least see their loyalty cards is stunning.

This doesn't even address the other main issue with Passbook: it's not an app unto itself. Rather, it requires you to download other apps that happen to talk to Passbook. That means for each item in your Passbook, your iDevice has the baggage of a separate app...that you won't use. Why not make Passbook the app itself? Allow users to enter their info from the programs or sites, and have Passbook neatly assemble them? Just a head scratcher.

Look, I know the apps are coming, but the fact that Passbook launched without a single example that any iOS6 user could see it in action immediately, and is flawed in it's own implementation is bizarrely non-Apple. Apple, the same company that foisted the Newsstand on users, but at least was smart enough to launch with the New York Times to show why you'd want it, or Game Center with several games already talking to it. If you build it, and people come, only to find it empty...then why have built it at all?

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