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Google's Android NFC Support Plus Zetawire Acquisition Equals G-Wallet

The Internet search giant could be the next big player in payments processing.

Need more proof Google wants in on the mobile payments game?

The search giant last week announced that its next version of Android OS - 2.3, or, Gingerbread, if you're into wintry sweets - has Near Field Communications support built in. And today several Android and tech blogs are reporting that Google has also recently acquired an early-stage mobile payments startup called Zetawire.

As tech and social media-centric blog Mashable reports, the acquisition happened quietly last summer:

Interestingly, this deal wasn't closed in the recent past; the acquisition was concluded back in August, around the time Google also bought up social apps startup Slide (which was led by a Paypal co-founder) and social currency company Jambool.

The December buzz comes apparently after a 451 Group analyst reported that Zetawire "had been granted a patent for 'mobile banking, advertising, identity management, credit card and mobile coupon transaction processing,'" Mashable writes.

So putting it all together, not only does Google anticipate NFC to become a big technology as it showcased in the new Samsung Nexus S running Android 2.3. But it also sees the potential for NFC to become a vehicle for future payments. And, with the Google-centric ecosystem Android promotes, those payments could be processed through Google's own Google Checkout payment processing service.

So is all this a threat to banks? Probably not, as Google's current payment services still tie to a credit or debit card customers have with their existing financial institute. One way or another, the customer is still storing their money with a bank.

But as more users automate the process and adopt NFC payments through their phone using Android's built-in payment capabilities and Google's own payment processor, the idea of a "mobile wallet" becomes a branded experience. And the bank account itself turns into something more like a utility running in the background; the customer doesn't see it, they don't think about it, and, pretty soon, it's in the background powering payments like the electric company powers a light bulb.

At that point, people might be paying with — and storing their personal information in — a "Google Wallet."

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