Even more than yesterday's earnings, investors in tech Übermensch Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) are fixated on what products Apple will rollout later this year. They might be onto something.
This isn't to say that Apple's results aren't important. They most certainly are. However, it's also hard to deny that studying Apple's coming product pipeline is probably a better way to gauge Apple's future growth trajectory in the months and even years ahead.
In terms of its coming product launches, Apple is on the record saying it intends to release at least one entirely new product line this year, although it's anyone's guess as to exactly what that product will be. Some, your author included, see the iWatch as the most plausible new Apple product for the year ahead. Others are awaiting a more sophisticated Apple TV. Still others are also looking to some kind of mobile payments solution, as CEO Tim Cook referenced during Apple's last earnings call.
And in giving new credence to Apple's mobile payment rumors, a number of reports have recently surfaced that detail several steps the tech giant is making as it attempts to make its mobile payments ambitions a reality.
Apple's coming mobile payments move
Although it's been picked up by a number of news outlets at this point, tech site re/code recently published a piece detailing Apple's ongoing efforts to establish a senior executive team to spearhead its mobile payments project.
At present, Apple is still working to land candidates for both the head of product and business development lead roles. Since such roles would be among the most senior on Apple's mobile payments project, it's unlikely Apple's mobile payments offering will reach market any time soon. Indeed, a number of publications have reported on Apple's long-favored "go slow" approach for this project, so this probably shouldn't come as a huge surprise.
Either way, these rumors highlight what could prove to be Apple's most exciting growth opportunity out of its commonly cited projects.
Why mobile payments are so exciting for Apple
Plenty of companies have eyed the mobile payments space as a possible growth market to enter, with few finding anything more than a modicum of success. However, Apple could be uniquely suited to succeed in the mobile payments space for two key reasons, even as other companies' plans have stagnated.
The first is that Apple already has significant scale and experience in payments processing as a whole. With roughly 600 million iTunes accounts already in existence, most of which are linked to credit cards of some kind, Apple has a massive, pre-installed user base of potential adopters sitting within its corporate databases. Coaxing potential users to begin working with any given service is always substantially easier as barriers to adoption decrease, and an Apple mobile payments solution would likely make using the service seamless for existing iTunes account holders.
The second advantage for Apple is technological. Apple introduced TouchID in the home button for its iPhone 5s as a way of easily and securely opening your iPhone, but the broader potential certainly wasn't lost on the tech giant. In creating a biometric authenticated ID system, Apple also created the perfect tool for enabling a mobile payments system that's both efficient and secure in a way that few other tech companies could match at present.
Not there yet
Apple's mobile payments offering is a great idea, but it will take time to perfect before it's ready for the mass market. However, with the mobile payments market already sitting well into the hundred of billions of dollars in terms of total transaction value, Apple's clearly uniquely situated to tap into the truly massive revenue stream that mobile payments represent.
So while it clearly won't be part of the near-term reasons to own Apple, investors watching the tech giant should certainly keep in mind these kinds of bigger picture, further away financial drivers as well.