The release of two new phones wasn’t enough to spark much growth for Apple’s (AAPL) fiscal first quarter. The company’s flagship iPhone posted only a 6.7% increase in shipments to 51 million. Wall Street was looking for 55 million.
In fact, there are more and more signs that the company is serious about this. According to a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal, AAPL has moved over two key executives, Eddy Cue (App Store head) and Jennifer Bailey (online retail chief), to explore the Apple payments opportunity.
On Monday’s Apple earnings call, CEO Tim Cook made some comments on the potential business as well. He touted:
“You can tell by looking at the demographics of our customers and the amount of commerce that goes through iOS devices versus the competition that it’s a big opportunity on the platform.”
Consider that, on the prior earnings call, he said the market was still in its “infancy.” So yes, it looks like Apple payments has some urgency now.
The good news is that the company has tremendous advantages. Let’s face it, AAPL is already processing $2 billion each quarter on its iTunes system, which has 600 million credit cards on file.
Besides, the company can also include Apple payments features in its mobile operating system. With this, it’s a pretty good bet that many app developers will start to use it. And yes, this would likely put tremendous pressure on players like Stripe and eBay’s (EBAY) PayPal. EBAY stock could be in serious jeopardy if an Apple payments system gets traction.
A user could simply use his or her Apple ID to make a transaction or use Touch ID, which requires a thumb print. In light of the wide-scale credit card breaches at companies like Target (TGT), such approaches may wind up being an attractive alternative.
And this point to the real opportunity — Apple could become a payments processor for bricks-and-mortar stores. It already has iBeacon, a Bluetooth network that detects smartphones in a store or at a cash register.
AAPL will still have challenges, of course. After all, companies like Google (GOOG) have had trouble getting people interested in payments systems. It can be pretty tough to get consumers to change their habits. Besides, AAPL has had difficulties lately with online offerings. Just look at the meager response to iTunes Radio.
But with Apple payments, the market is just too big to ignore. According to Forrester Research, mobile payments in the US are expected to soar from $12.8 billion in 2012 to $90 billion by 2017. And again, an Apple payments system would have advantages like the iTunes user base, iBeacon, Touch ID and the ubiquitous iOS platform.
So in light of all the opportunity — as well as Apple’s problems finding growth — it should be no surprise that Cook is suddenly interested in chasing Apple payments.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook. He is also the author of High-Profit IPO Strategies, All About Commodities and All About Short Selling. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.