Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is working aggressively to foray into the mobile payment service business, sources familiar with the matter told Douglas Macmillan and Daisuke Wakabayashi of The Wall Street Journal. The tech giant is well-positioned to leverage its user base. So far, Apple has sold more than 375 million iPhones, and over 155 million iPads. The company revealed that its iTunes store has more than 575 million registered users worldwide.

Apple AAPL mobile payment

Apple a sleeping giant in the payment industry

Sources said that Eddy Cue, a key lieutenant of Tim Cook and chief of App Store and iTunes business, has met several high-profile executive in the payment services industry. Cue reportedly discussed Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s prospects of handling payments for physical goods and services. The Cupertino-based company handles payments for books, movies, music and other apps purchased through iTunes. But it still doesn’t allow customers to use iTunes to pay for physical goods and services. Apple has introduced many technologies that help users pay through their iPhones, like iBeacon and fingerprint scanner.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has also moved Jennifer Bailey into a new role to develop a payment business. Bailey has been running the tech giant’s online stores for a long time now. Forrester Research analyst Denee Carrington said that Apple is a sleeping beast in the payment industry. It has the necessary technology and capabilities. The company just needs to tie things together. To date, Apple has had limited exposure to mobile payments outside its own digital wares. The company offers a Passbook app where users can store gift cards, mobile coupons and electronic tickets, and make payments by proxy.

Apple vs. PayPal

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s foray into full-fledged payment service would trigger a fierce battle in the industry, which is led by eBay Inc (NASDAQ:EBAY)’s PayPal. Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), Stripe Inc and Square Inc. also offer mobile payments. According to Forrester Research, the U.S. mobile payments business will grow from $12.8 billion in 2012 to $90 billion by 2017. Coincidentally, billionaire investor Carl Icahn urged Apple to expand its presence in mobile payments. Icahn, who has built a stake in eBay Inc (NASDAQ:EBAY), is pressing the company to spin off its PayPal unit.

Rumors began to gather momentum earlier this month after Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) applied for a patent, which involves paying for goods and services through a signal sent from a smartphone to a wireless receiver.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) shares inched up 0.72% to $550 in pre-market trading Monday.