CEO Tim Cook all-but-confirmed this possibility when he said last month that Apple's payment capabilities was one of the driving forces behind TouchID, Apple's fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5S. Activist investor Carl Icahn agrees. Icahn has been vocal about payments over the past couple of months.
Icahn, who has a sizable stake in (and opinion about) the tech giant, believes mobile payment processing is the next big area of tech, at least in terms of Apple's growth prospects.
Mobile payments have also been the key issue with Icahn's insistence that eBay (EBAY), in which he owns a 2% stake, spin off its popular PayPal service. eBay's board isn't buying into it.
Nevertheless, acting as if they've discovered an unknown secret, analysts are now all over this payments story for Apple. Analyst Katy Huberty of Morgan Stanley, whom I respect, recently predicted that Apple will confirm its payments entry by June. Although Huberty has a solid history of making good calls, I can't say she's exactly going out on a limb.
I've discussed Apple's payment capabilities on TheStreet for two years, before anyone knew what was coming. In August 2012, I told you that Apple would kill off Visa (V). It was clear to me at that point that Apple had ambitions of being "everywhere you want to be."
Here's what I said in that article:
"I'm starting to get the sense that these card companies, many of which have introduced convenience to the payment process, could be in trouble. Although they were successful at convincing consumers that it is best to leave their cash and checkbooks at home, it is not out of the realm of possibility that they could soon become the dinosaurs of the payment process, if they don't adapt.
"The one thing consumers can't ever be without is their cell phones. That's why vendors like Starbucks (SBUX), which recently formed a partnership with Square, are becoming more open to the idea of mobile payments, a new craze that has the potential to eventually become the world's currency."