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.
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."
Looking to expedite the checkout process, Wal-Mart executives tapped Apple to test payment processing capabilities. Wal-Mart, which is often seen as a dinosaur when compared to Amazon (AMZN), appears interested in reshaping the way customers shop and pay for their products.
Wal-Mart's competitive future remains dependent on an improved checkout process. Wal-Mart stands to save millions of dollars annually if customers are able to use their iPhones to scan and pay for items, money that can theoretically be used to pay for potential minimum wage increases.
"Businesses that once relied upon VeriFone are now trying to find the right mix to offer ease and expediency to consumers without the back-end headaches often associated with synergizing hardware and software. This is what makes Apple, Google (GOOG) and even Square so appealing, not only to startup businesses but those that are mature and well-established."
So at the risk of sounding like I'm tooting my own horn, I've been all over this story. Apple's ability to grow into mobile payments is not a new idea. With all due respect to Katy Huberty and others that are now "breaking this story," should credit TheStreet for its exceptional coverage of this over the past two years.
Carl Icahn has every right to be excited about payments. The ubiquity of mobile devices can no longer be ignored.
Just as I said two years ago.
At the time of publication, the author was long AAPL and held no position in any of the stocks mentioned.
This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.