By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
October 28, 2014

The knock on Tim Cook when he took over for Steve Jobs was that he wasn’t a product guy, and that’s true if you define “product” strictly as a finished piece of hardware.

But think about all the pieces — hardware, software, services — that had to come together to make Apple Pay work:

  • The Passbook app, introduced at the first post-Jobs WWDC in June 2012 when nobody outside Apple could figure out what it was for.
  • The acquisition in July 2012 of AuthenTec’s military-strength fingerprint recognition technology.
  • The Sept. 2013 launch of TouchID on the iPhone 5S, the first iPhone with a scratch-proof sapphire home button.
  • Deals negotiated in early 2014 with the major payment networks, the big U.S. banks and hundreds of retailers, from Aéropostale to Walt Disney Resorts.
  • The Sept. 2014 launch of iPhone 6/6+, the first Apple phones equipped with NFC chips.
  • Finally, with the release of iOS 8.1 on Oct. 20, the official launch of Apple Pay.


Now watch Cook’s body language in the attached clip from the Wall Street Journal‘s inaugural WSJLIVE conference, when he trots out some numbers he says he’s been “following pretty closely”: More than 1 million credit cards activated in the first 72 hours; more mobile point-of-sale payments than the sum of all competing systems.

“We’re already No. 1,” he says, leaning forward, pointing, and drawing a pie chart in the air. “Not just No. 1, but we’re more than the total of all the other guys. And we’ve only been at it a week!”

Resistance from CVS and Rite Aid is probably futile. Alibaba’s Jack Ma is ready to sign. China’s UnionPay is reportedly on board. And then, according to WSJLIVE’s unintentionally funny machine-generated transcription, there’s “the whole rest of the war.”

I can’t think of anyone better to design a smart watch than Jony Ive. Or anyone better than Tim Cook to solve the problem of contactless mobile payments at the point of sale.

Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter at @philiped. Read his Apple (AAPL) coverage at or subscribe via his RSS feed.

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