Feeds

Apple plotting point-of-sale putsch?

iPhone, iPads in NFC rumor

Boost IT visibility and business value

The next round of Apple iPhones and iPads will include near-field communications tech, says one industry watcher, a move that would give further legitimacy to that point-of-sale payment system.

"Apple could be the game-changer," Richard Doherty, director of the consulting firm Envisioneering Group, told Bloomberg on Tuesday, citing engineers who are working on hardware for the project.

Game-changer, possibly, but Apple would hardly the be the first player in the NFC game. Google's ex-CEO and now talk-TV wannabe Eric Schmidt demoed the NFC capabilities of a smartphone last November, the handset that was subsequently dubbed the "pure Google" Nexus S when it debuted at the end of 2010.

Nokia's C7 also has an NFC chip, and the Finns have said that an enabling software upgrade will be made available sometime this year.

The problem stalling wide acceptance NFC is one that has bedeviled many an enabling technology: who is going to control what part of the payment chain?

Japanese handset toters, for example, have enjoyed the convenience of using their FeliCa-equipped phones to pay for such services as mass transit since the middle of the last decade. The "wallet phone" implementation of the rather rudimentary FeliCa system, however, is controlled end-to-end by Japanese Telecom giant NTT DoCoMo.

Outside of Japan, however – in the US and UK, for example – multiple stakeholders from handset makers to credit-card companies to telecoms to point-of-sale and point-of-service providers are all jockeying to ensure that NFC implementations don't shut them out from what Bloomberg reports is a $6.2 trillion consumer market in the US alone.

At stake are transaction fees – and although such fees make up only a small percentage of consumer purchases, a small percentage of $6.2 trillion can add up to a massive ka-ching.

Taylor Hamilton, an analyst at IBISWorld, told Bloomberg that Apple might use the fact that since it already has on file the credit card data of millions of iTunes, its NFC-equipped devices could be point-of-sale alternatives to credit-card companies such as Visa and MasterCard.

The Envisioneering Group's Doherty told Bloomberg that Apple has already developed a point-of-sale terminal that it could deliver to small businesses "such as hairdressers and mom-and-pop stores." He also said that Apple is considering either "heavily subsidizing the terminal, or even giving it away."

Free stuff that might boost sales – always a good hook for encouraging the use of new technologies.

NFC-equipped iPhones and iPad could also be used to precisely target Apple's iAds when of those devices use them to purchase items – or even when users gain information about products by pointing their devices at NFC-equipped posters and point-of-sale displays. Point at a Katy Perry poster; get a one-minute sample of "Firework" and an offer for discounted tickets to her "California Dreams" tour.

And as any honest Googlian will tell you, targeted advertising is what it's all about when you want to double or triple your ad rates.

Apple's massive iTunes infrastructure and user list gives it a leg up on its competition – and the company's new $1bn data center in North Carolina doesn't hurt, either.

One might even call those advantages "game-changing".

There's at least one fly in Apple's NFC ointment, however: Nokia's NFC patent application. Although the patent hasn't (yet?) been granted, and although there are many ways to skin the not-yet-domesticated NFC cat, one can be sure that when NFC tech breaks through, patent lawyers will be combing through documents to leverage any legal advantages they might uncover. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Scotland's BIG question: Will independence cost me my broadband?
They can take our lives, but they'll never take our SPECTRUM
Bring back error correction, say Danish 'net boffins
We don't need no steenkin' TCP/IP retransmission and the congestion it causes
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
NBN Co adds apartments to FTTP rollout
Commercial trial locations to go live in September
Samsung Z Tizen OS mobe is post-phoned – this time for good?
Russian launch for Sammy's non-droid knocked back
Telstra to KILL 2G network by end of 2016
GSM now stands for Grave-Seeking-Mobile network
Seeking LTE expert to insert small cells into BT customers' places
Is this the first step to a FON-a-like 4G network?
What FTC lawsuit? T-Mobile US touts 10GB, $100 family-of-4 plan
Folks 'could use that money for more important things' says CEO Legere
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.