There has been no confirmation from Apple on this front, but word is that the next versions of the iPhone and iPad will include NFC (near field communication) technology, which means people will be able to use them to make payments out in the physical world (where the technology is supported - which will likely be a growing number of places).
A report from Bloomberg cites Richard Doherty, director of consulting firm Envisioneering Group as the source of the information. According to the report:
Apple, based in Cupertino, California, is considering starting a mobile payment service as early as mid-2011, Doherty said. It would revamp iTunes, a service that lets consumers buy digital movies and music, so it would hold not only users’ credit-card account information but also loyalty credits and points, Doherty said.
Using the service, customers could walk into a store or restaurant and make payments straight from an iPad or iPhone. They could also receive loyalty rewards and credits for purchases, such as when referring a friend, Doherty said.
According to the report, Apple could also use info from in-store payments to bolster its iAd mobile advertising offering, so ads could be based on where users have been making payments.
The move would certainly not be a surprising one, as Google is already getting into this game with Android. Reports from earlier this month indicated that Google too could launch a mobile payments service as early as this year, also based upon NFC, and the Android-based Nexus S phone already includes the NFC technology.
Outgoing Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently said, "You'll be able to walk in a store and do commerce. You'd bump for everything and eventually replace credit cards." Major credit card companies will likely be involved in the action as well, however. MasterCard has indicated as much.
Apple is reportedly considering giving away payment terminals to businesses to accommodate the system, and given that iTunes has such a huge user base, it could prove quite successful. Google's strategy could make Google Checkout more of a household name. Either that or Google's system could hurt its chances in competition with Apple. You know who has a pretty good system in place that could rival iTunes, should they look to expand into this new territory? Amazon. Something to think about.