With over 500 million credit cards on file, Apple is in a unique position to get into the payments industry. While such an undertaking would undoubtedly require a number of complex variables to first be ironed out, a recent report in the Wall Street Journal claims that Apple is actively exploring the issue.
Eddy Cue, Apple's iTunes and App Store chief and a key lieutenant of Chief Executive Tim Cook, has met with industry executives to discuss Apple's interest in handling payments for physical goods and services on its devices, according to people familiar with the situation.
In another sign of the company's interest, Apple moved Jennifer Bailey, a longtime executive who was running its online stores, into a new role to build a payment business within the technology giant, three people with knowledge of the move said.
Interesting stuff, especially considering that rumors regarding Apple getting into the payments industry have persisted for quite some time now. Indeed, rumors that Apple might release an NFC-capable phone go back as far as April 2010, before the release of the iPhone 4.
Apple, of course, isn't one to rush things. Thus far, the company has taken its dear time rolling out technologies and features that, taken together, might one day be part of a larger iWallet initiative. To wit, the iOS 6 saw the introduction of Passbook while iOS 7 saw the introduction of iBeacons. Even more important, the iPhone 5s introduced fingerprint authorization technology on a massive and unprecedented scale.
Putting all the pieces together, Apple is uniquely situated to leverage its existing technology and make a bold leap into payments. While I doubt Apple would be interested in wetting its beak (i.e, getting a cut of each transaction), don't be surprised if Apple finds itself more concerned with facilitating mobile payments as a way to drive iOS device sales.