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Tim Cook: Mobile payments was 'one of the thoughts behind Touch ID'

During Apple's earnings conference call yesterday, Tim Cook tipped his hand just a little bit when detailing the decision process underlying Apple's implementation of Touch ID on the iPhone 5s.

"The mobile payments area in general is one that we've been intrigued with," Cook explained. "It was one of the thoughts behind Touch ID."

While perhaps not the most astounding revelation on its face, it certainly is a step up from Cook's oft-used line that Apple creates products to "delight its customers."

Cook's statement therefore provides a rare glimpse into Apple's strategic thinking. Rather than acquiring AuthenTec and implementing fingerprint authorization sensors willy-nilly, we've now learned that Apple has long had its sights on mobile payments. Though truthfully, this shouldn't come as too much of a surprise given the deluge of mobile payment-related patent filings Apple has made in recent years.

In light of Cook's statement on mobile payments, it's worth highlighting a recent Wall Street Journal article that provided a few more details regarding Apple's interest in mobile payments.

Eddy Cue, Apple's iTunes and App Store chief and a key lieutenant of Chief Executive Tim Cook, has met with industry executives to discuss Apple's interest in handling payments for physical goods and services on its devices, according to people familiar with the situation.

In another sign of the company's interest, Apple moved Jennifer Bailey, a longtime executive who was running its online stores, into a new role to build a payment business within the technology giant, three people with knowledge of the move said.

Tim Cook also added that mobile payments are "intriguing" and represent a "big opportunity" for the iOS ecosystem.

As it stands now, Apple's Touch ID is only functional for unlocking a device and for authorizing purchases via the App Store. Perhaps with the release of iOS 8, that will soon change.

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