At Engadget’s mid-March Expand Conference, Lenovo celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Thinkpad with some avant-garde plans for its tablet near field communication (NFC). At least one ThinkPad model planned for later in 2013 will have the ability to automatically process credit cards without needing to save any sensitive financial information online.
Functionally, this ability should allow consumers to peruse products on the ThinkPad, pick a purchase and then place their credit card against the NFC reader on the device to automatically register its information and complete the sale. The process could make shopping on new sites far easier and also help online buying grow much more secure — factors which stand to increase the already potent trend of tablet couch commerce.
This is not Lenovo’s first dabble in NFC technology. In early 2013, the company announced a ThinkPad Helix model with a similar feature that allowed devices to instantly transmit data with a simple tap, letting friends share a variety of information or collaborate on projects by pairing devices.
The data-sharing feature fits more with work and school activities, where the hybrid tablet can be used when teams gather to tackle problems or plans. The payment feature is an outgrowth of this earlier work, but it is focused more on the individual, at-home user and has the potential to change the way people shop on their tablets.
Using NFC technology on tablets is a relatively new idea — many companies have dreams of near field communication purchasing systems in retail stores that sync naturally with smartphones — but Lenovo is one of the few companies that has worked on a hybrid tablet version. Swiping a physical credit card near the reader does require that shoppers have their cards handy, but it also saves precious minutes of data entry. For users visiting new sites where they have no saved information, this could mean the difference between a casual viewing and a real sale.
For now, the Lenovo card sensor will only work with compatible cards, although there has been no news on which companies will take advantage of the technology (MasterCard, with its PayPass technology, is a likely candidate). After the ferocious rise of tablet shopping in the 2012 holiday season, it looks like tablet makers are trying to make the buying experience easier any way possible. Lenovo’s first market move had the potential to draw plenty of interest among buyers and competitors alike.
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