Hewlett-Packard is reportedly developing smartphones and tablets that will let consumers make purchases wirelessly. The company is considering introducing devices that feature Near Field Communication (NFC) technology before the end of the year. Furthermore, third-party developers will be able to build apps and services using the capability, according to two people familiar with the company's plans, cited by BusinessWeek.

In addition to wireless payments, NFC also lets consumers use their phones to redeem coupons and loyalty points at local merchants. The technology has either already been adopted, or plans to be, by many companies (Google, Samsung, Research In Motion, and so on); HP is just making sure it isn't left behind. Unsurprisingly, the company has declined to comment on the news.

Last week, HP announced that its first tablet, the HP TouchPad, will go on sale in the US on July 1, 2011. The device, which will not come with NFC, will be available from US retailers, commercial resellers, and direct from HP with the option of either 16GB ($500.00) or 32GB ($600.00) of internal storage. It is seen as the company's first attempt to fight the tablet competition, which includes products from Apple, Google, and Research In Motion.

The HP TouchPad is a 9.7-inch slate (1024 x 768 resolution), powered by a dual-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon APQ8060 processor, 16GB or 32GB of built-in storage, 1GB of RAM, HP's Beats audio, a micro-USB 2.0 port, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, a front-mounted 1.3MP camera, as well as a light sensor, gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, and GPS (3G model only). It measures 242 x 190 x 13.7mm and weighs around 740g. The device is running a WebOS 3.0 with true multitasking, Flash 10.1, a paneled e-mail application, a pop-up notification system like Growl, Skype support, wireless printing, calendar and e-mail integration via HP Synergy, as well as compatibility with Amazon's Kindle ebook store, Google Docs, QuickOffice, and more.

Optional accessories (sold separately) for the HP TouchPad include the HP Touchstone Charging Dock, the HP TouchPad Wireless Keyboard, and the HP TouchPad Case. These are expected to be priced at $80, $70, and $50, respectively.

If we're hearing about an upcoming NFC-enabled tablet from HP, this could be the TouchPad's successor. It's still too early to tell, but it would make sense for the company to have something newer to offer in time for the 2011 holiday season. Either way, we're willing to bet that the next version of webOS supports NFC.