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Amazon considering joining NFC rush

by Phil Hornshaw

Amazon (AMZN) isn’t just primed to take the Android world by storm: it’s marching across Google-controlled territories, planting flags and setting up permanent settlements. After launching its Android-based Amazon Appstore and going live with its cloud-based music storage service, the retail giant might be turning its gaze on Google’s next big project: Near Field Communication payments.

Bloomberg is reporting that Amazon is considering going into the NFC payment game, which Google has been working on diligently, Microsoft is prepping to get into and Apple may or may not be joining sometime in the future as well. The technology uses smartphones to communicate with other devices when they’re in near proximity to each other -- in the case of payments, companies like Google (GOOG) and now Amazon have been looking at allowing users to wave their smartphones at a payment terminal when they go through a check-out line at a store, allowing them to pay instantly.

Google’s Nexus S carries built-in NFC technology already, and the latest version of Android, Gingerbread, supports it for other devices as well. Verifone (PAY), a maker of payment terminals for merchants, is putting NFC technology in its new terminals so they’re ready to go, and several credit card companies have signed up to make the payments work, as well.

The Bloomberg story quotes two anonymous sources close to Amazon’s possible project, but says the company hasn’t fully committed to the NFC bandwagon just yet. Instead, it’s exploring the viability of such a program, but Amazon already has a pretty big stake in mobile commerce, so it’s not a huge stretch to see it go down this road as well. On Android and Apple’s (AAPL) iOS platform, there are a host of Amazon mobile payment services: Amazon Mobile, which allows users to shop Amazon.com from their mobile devices; Price Check by Amazon, which allows users to scan bar codes and comparison shop with their smartphones; Amazon Deals and Barcode for finding products and deals on the site; and Amazon Windowshop for iPad.

It makes a lot of sense for Amazon to continue to be the dominant retail force on the Internet, no matter what device its customers might be using to access it. As far as NFC payments are concerned, they’d help Amazon to expand beyond the confines of cyberspace, insinuating itself into brick-and-mortar stores as well. And like Google, NFC would give Amazon a chance to learn the buying habits of its customers and target more advertising to them.

Amazon would be making another big move to get its name slapped all over everything Android, too, furthering its fight in becoming a supplier of mobile apps and other mobile services. Google and Apple ought to be worried, because Amazon just keeps coming.