SAN JOSE, Calif. – The next version of the Android mobile operating system will support near field communications, said Eric Schmidt. Google's chief executive showed an unannounced handset using NFC and the Gingerbread version of Android at the Web 2.0 Summit.
"We are incorporating support for the [NFC] reader/writer," said Schmidt. "It will be in Gingerbread [the next version of Android] that comes out in the next few weeks," he said.
Research in Motion will support NFC in future Blackberry handsets, too. "We'd be fools not to use it," said Jim Balsillie, Co-Chief Executive Officer at RIM in a separate Web 2.0 session.
NFC has been around for many years. Japan's NTT DoCoMo helped pioneer its use for mobile payments in Japan. More recently Apple Inc. hired an NFC specialist, igniting speculation the next iPhone will support NFC.
Last week an executive of PayPal predicted that within five years the majority of face-to-face retail transactions would be conducted with a mobile phone.
"The overall mobile market is very excited about this secure element," said Schmidt at the Web 2.0 event. "There will be 500 new startups in mobile payments as these platforms emerge," he said.
"This could replace your credit card," Schmidt added, demonstrating the new handset.
Chip makers have long been poised for the advent of NFC. A half dozen semiconductor makers are on the board of the NFC Forum, founded in 2004 with help from Nokia and Sony.
Broadcom recently acquired a startup with NFC technology. STMicroelectronics has supplied NFC chips to handset maker LG Electronics in November 2008.