First there were smartphones, then came the mountains of apps. Now rivals Apple and Google are racing to introduce to iOS and Android the ability to initiate secure mobile transactions via a simple tap of your handset. The latest shot was fired by Google’s CEO Monday, who introduced its tap technology entrant as part of an upcoming update of its Android OS codenamed “Gingerbread.”
Speaking at a conference on Web 2.0 technology, CEO Eric Schmidt said the new Android software would support Near Field Communications, a chip allowing nearby devices to communicate. While a horribly-forgettable name, the technology holds intriguing possibilities for companies seeking to expand the boundaries of mobile commerce. A hint can be seen at your local grocery store, where many payment terminals permit you to simply tap your credit card in order to initiate a transaction.
Although Google introduced Android OS 2.2 in May, carriers and hardware companies are just now updating the various Android-powered products. Although Android is a largely open project with volunteers able to contribute their efforts, the news about “Gingerbread” came largely by surprise. The reason: the usually open software is closed to only a few partners right before a new release.
Apple has not been standing idly by. For more than a year the Cupertino, Calif. company has worked on getting NFC chips in iPhones. In August, Apple hired Benjamin Vigier, a veteran of NFC development. Most recently, Apple began working with Dutch security company Gemalto. The tie-up reportedly is working on a chip permitting iPhone-based purchased without needing to swipe a credit card.