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Apple has appointed an NFC expert as its head of Mobile Commerce, underlining Cupertino's commitment to making proximity payments part of the iPhone architecture.

Apple has been busy filing patents on iPay, iBuy and iCoupons, not to mention using NFC to trigger communication between devices. Now NFC Communication World has noticed that one of the world's experts in implementing NFC infrastructure, Benjamin Vigier, now rejoices in the job title of "Product Manager - Mobile Commerce at Apple".

Benjamin Vigier's own list of achievements include conceiving and managing PayPay Mobile, Starbucks Card Mobile (the bar-code-based iPhone app), creating mobile payment wallets for several network operators and (most interestingly) creating an NFC Wallet for one of America's "top 3" banks.

That was all within the last couple of years, while at mobile-commerce specialists mFoundry. Prior to that Vigier picked up knowledge of NFC while at SANDISK and Bouygues Telecom.

US network operators are being very gung-ho about NFC payments at the moment, having banded together with the intention of creating a cross-network standard that will enable Americans to pay for things with a wave of the phone. At the moment it seems that Android is the platform of choice, but the participants would no doubt be delighted to welcome Apple to the party.

We've said before that Apple is ideally placed to get involved in NFC. The company has a secure payment mechanism already in place with iTunes, and by equipping Apple TV with NFC it can use the technology for more than just payments, while cross-selling at the same time.

But dashing into a new technology isn't how Steve Jobs likes to do things - better let others take the risks, then come along and do the same thing, only better. The US network operators intend to launch their service late next year, which might be too late for the next generation of iPhone, so Apple will have to decide if it's going to wait it out or risk getting into NFC early and driving the technology.

The appointment of Benjamin Vigier would seem to indicate the latter, and if anyone can drive the adoption of NFC then it is Apple. ®

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