The Next Technology from Apple
By David Dorf-Oracle on Oct 18, 2010
Apple didn't invent the personal computer, but they were the first company to make it easy enough to be adopted by the general public. Same story for mp3 players, music libraries and now tablets. So what's the next big technology that Apple will mainstream? Glad you asked.Today you can use iTunes to buy music, movies, apps, and other digital content, but you can't use it to buy physical products. There have been rumors that because Apple has been hiring NFC engineers, that's exact where they're heading -- payments. Near Field Communciation (NFC) is a short-range wireless standard used to exchange data, like payment information, loyalty number, or coupon codes. Instead of swiping a magnetic-stripe card, consumers will wave their NFC-enabled mobile phones.
Its not so compelling to replace one credit card, but if your NFC-enabled phone could replace all the cards in your wallet and speed-up the checkout line then it becomes more interesting. And from Apple's perspective, taking a cut of payment transaction would be enormously profitable.
That's probably why the mobile carriers are also racing toward a solution. AT&T and Verizon have a project called Mercury that will enable mobile phones to pay for goods in stores and have the cost posted to the consumer's monthly service bill. This would completely bypass the banks (and potentially turn mobile operators into banks).
Naturally Visa, MasterCard, Amex, and Discover are not sitting still. They have several mobile payment projects ongoing across the world.
In France, the major mobile carriers, banks, and technology providers are cooperating to facilitate a large NFC pilot in Nice that is a pre-cursor to a national rollout. This was the same approach they took to adopt smartcards, a technology that never jumped the Atlantic with any widespread adoption.
Nokia has already committed to embedding NFC chips in selected smartphones starting to 2011, and if Apple's next version of the iPhone does the same, it may be enough to spur adoption. Retailers should certainly be monitoring this situation and be ready to pounce on any opportunities.