PayPal, Google, Visa, Amex, Square, mobile carriers and others are competing in the rapidly developing world of mobile payments. NFC is one vision (though mass adoption is several years off if at all), while there are others such as Square and PayPal that are pushing NFC-free shopping concepts or tools.
Earlier this week PayPal laid out a very comprehensive and ambitious vision for the "future of shopping" and payments. It's a holistic concept that involves merchants, consumers and advertising; and it's built in part on recent acquisitions: Zong, Milo and Where.
PayPal wants to bring together payments on any device (call it "cloud payments") with offers (demand generation), "local search" and store inventory data. It's a strong vision and being smartly knit together through acquisitions and PayPal's existing assets. Look for them to make more acquisitions.
PayPal has the resources and most of the assets to make a pretty successful run at this vision. One of its great strengths is that it doesn't require infrastructure upgrades to work: consumers don't need new NFC-enabled devices nor do merchants need new POS terminals. So adoption could be more immediate. But there's a problem in PayPal's brand clout.
Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Google (even potentially Amazon) all have stronger brands than PayPal or eBay. And I think this is a major challenge for the company in getting merchants and consumers on board en masse. PayPal will also need to revamp and reduce its fee and commission structure to gain broader usage and adoption for all the scenarios envisioned in the video below.
In my mind, however, the brand issue (strength, trust) is a profound obstacle standing in the way of the realization of this otherwise powerful vision.