According to the Bloomberg report, "The services are based on 'Near-Field Communication,' a technology that can beam and receive information at a distance of up to 4 inches, due to be embedded in the next iteration of the iPhone for AT&T Inc. and the iPad 2, Doherty said. Both products are likely to be introduced this year, he said, citing engineers who are working on hardware for the Apple project."
While the report isn't confirmed by Apple and relies on speculation, Bloomberg's Businessweek had a similar story on Google starting up NFC payments on Android phones Jan. 4, where it quoted unnamed sources again. However, Google has been using Portland, Ore. as an NFC test market called Hotpot, so there was some weight to the article. (Last year, Google bought out Bump Technologies, where two phones swap information by touching or sharing a code.)
While I'm sure that NFC purchases are on their way, these reports are still mostly rumor. (More disturbing is that no one seems to have begun to tackle the concept of identity theft and security for NFC payments.) Perhaps by the time the iPhone 5 comes out, Apple will have a viable NFC strategy -- but first, many more merchants will have to have the technology to make buying by phone worthwhile.