OPINION: The last 48 hours have seen a rush of announcements showing that near field communication is moving rapidly to widespread adoption:
- Android: Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt has revealed that the next generation Android Gingerbread operating system, due out in a few weeks, will include support for NFC.
- US MNOs: Confirmation that AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA have formed a joint venture to introduce NFC-based mobile payments services in the US could come as early as tomorrow.
- Bling Nation is set to roll out its mobile payments technology across the United States, using NFC phones in early 2011, and also plans to launch its service in other countries next year.
- Nokia has revealed it will switch on the NFC functionality built into its C7 smartphone in early 2011.
Apple, long expected to have an NFC-enabled iPhone and other products in the works, also has a major announcement planned. Visitors to iTunes are currently greeted with a countdown to 10am Eastern Time on 16 November and the message “Tomorrow is just another day. That you’ll never forget. Check back here tomorrow for an exciting announcement from iTunes.”
Could there be a connection between the rash of recent announcements and Apple’s iTunes teaser? Most observers are expecting the announcement to focus on the availability, at last, of Beatles music on iTunes and on the introduction of a cloud-based streaming music service. But there is also the possibility that, like Nokia’s C7 smartphone, the current iPhone already has an unused NFC chip inside — and that NFC could play a part in connecting Apple customers with their music stored in the cloud.
Apple is responsible for numerous NFC-related patent applications and recently hired an NFC specialist as head of mobile commerce and speculation that Apple will include NFC in the next iPhone has recently reached fever pitch.
Of course, the timing of the iTunes announcement may be a complete coincidence. But with both Android and Nokia phones now due to support NFC, it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise if Apple was to choose to announce support for NFC today.
UPDATE: No, just something about being able to buy tracks made nearly 50 years ago by a popular beat combo. Looks like we’ll have to wait for iPhone 5 after all…