Apple has reportedly hired mobile payment expert Benjamin Vigier as product manager for mobile commerce, suggesting the company may be preparing to ramp up its mobile commerce efforts. Vigier was most recently product manager for mobile wallet and near field communications services at mobile financial services provider mFoundry in San Francisco.
In that position, he oversaw m-commerce initiatives for clients including Starbucks, PayPal and Sprint. Before that, he led m-commerce and NFC activities for flash memory maker Sandisk Corp. and Bouyges Telecom.
Apple has not confirmed Vigier's hiring and did not respond to a media inquiry Monday asking about about his employment. But his LinkedIn profile lists the new Apple post as his current position.
His profile summary refers to more than 10 years of experience in mobile software, expertise in mobile commerce and innovation and an "extensive worldwide network of mobile operator, manufacturer and financial institution relationships." In short, the type of person Apple might need to help realize its own m-commerce ambitions.
Speculation about Apple expanding further into mobile payments was been fed by various m-commerce-related patent the company has applied for. One described as "NFC-based digital event ticketing solution," would allow iPhone users to buy concert or sports tickets via iTunes and then use the iPhone itself as the e-ticket to gain admission.
In its rollout of the iAd platform in April, Apple also touted m-commerce capabilities as a key feature of the new ad units for enabling purchases or mobile coupons.
Apple mobile rival Google also appears to be planning a bigger push into m-commerce. The company is in talks with eBay to incorporate the company PayPal digital payment service into its Android Market app storefront to simplify purchasing, according to a Bloomberg report.
Gartner issued a report in June forecasting the number of mobile payment users worldwide will surpass 108.6 million in 2010, a 54.5% increase from 2009. But North America will account for only 3.5 million of the total. Mobile payment users will make up just 2.1% of all mobile subscribers in 2010, according to Gartner.