I sometimes speculate the only reason Google raced into NFC was because it thought (as I did) that Apple intended to enter this space. You can even imagine it being whispered about at Apple's board meetings around the time of the original iPhone launch, if you like. You can imagine anything.
Google didn't commit. It failed to educate its audience, and so far failed to popularize the technology in any significant sense. It produced a few videos and press conferences, but didn't work to meet an existing human need. The great authority on what you will find online clearly thinks that if deigns to introduce something it must be good, classic "build it and they will come" stuff -- except the people didn't come along for that ride, at least not so far -- though the company apparently hopes to extend its list of participating retailers in hope, perhaps, of summoning a new church of participating consumers.
An Apple approach
Apple meanwhile has been quietly working on payment systems for years, hiring in some of the world's experts on NFC and (presumably) other potential payment technologies.
Except, payments are more than technology. Payment underpins most people's experience of the world we're in. We pay for food, drink, and fun. We're used to using cash and have used it for thousands of years. It's only relatively recently we began to use credit cards.
Apple differs from Google because it designs things with the end user in mind.
This is why Passbook works, at least enough to make the tech interesting toairlines and larger retailers. Passbook enables retailers to offer limited payment systems in conjunction with voucher deals and other added-value items; it also accelerates ticketing and door entry at public spaces.
If deployed in conjunction with a tried and tested payment system (iTunes) Apple has quietly built a system which can be extended not to replace the way we use cash to make payments, but to augment it.
Apple understands that innovation needs to be applied incrementally. It has also put together an answer to consumer concern for mobile device security. It isn't trying to stand in the middle of every interchange, selling advertising based on your purchasing patterns as it does.
Google now stands as a company that tried and to a large extent so far failed in mobile payment systems. Apple remains untested. In the event it does choose to enter this sector, then it can do so gradually, incrementally and effectively, and learn from Google's mistakes.
This particular adventure is working out pretty much just as I predicted some time ago.
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