We can all cite examples of technologies that took off simply because there was enough marketing muscle behind them, whether the technology was valid or not. I'm not trying to imply that near-field communications (NFC) is not a valid technology, but I am implying that if Nokia, Philips, and Sony really want this wireless medium to prosper, it has the marketing muscle to ensure its success. The three companies have come together to form the NFC Forum, which now includes more than 20 members.
NFC allows for a secure connection between two devices. It's secure because the two devices must be really close to each other, just a few centimeters apart. It evolved from a combination of contactless identification (RFID) and interconnection technologies.
In the real world, Nokia wants to build the technology into its handsets, allowing users to turn their phones into "virtual credit cards" (using Philips components, of course). In the demo that I saw, the user dialed his bank on the handset and downloaded "cash" to the phone, much like we use an ATM. He then went to a soccer game, buying the tickets with the phone. He also made a purchase at the refreshment stand in the same manner.
It's cool technology, but we've seen many other cool technologies fall by the wayside.