Eric Schmidt is talking right now at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco, and he’s showing off a new device with a built in mobile payment system. He wouldn’t say what it is, but it looks a lot like the fabled Nexus S from Samsung, and he cagily admitted that he said there’d never be a “Nexus 2,” but never said anything about the letter “S.”He said that the version of Android on this phone–presumably version 2.3, codenamed Gingerbread–would support built-in NFC (near-field communication) chips. These chips can send bursts of information across very short distances, which could enable interesting linkages between mobile search, location-based services, and e-commerce.
For instance, assuming you opt in, you could be walking by a location where a Groupon promotion is happening that day and your phone would alert you to the deal. Go into the store, and you could buy the product on site from your phone by running it over some sort of sensor. Schmidt said that Google Checkout would of course be supported, but partners (like credit card companies) would be providing the actual payment fulfillment services.
Host John Batelle also asked Schmidt about what aspect of Android he finds most dissatisfying. After kidding about being a former member of Apple’s board, he admitted that they’re still behind the iPhone in terms of number of applications. That’s a sheer numbers game–developers make applications for the platform with the broadest user base, and Apple has a head start.
He also talked about a range of other topics, including privacy and the lines Google won’t cross, like facial recognition and real-time tracking–neither of which is coming to Google Earth.