Google is preparing to launch an online payment system that might compete with eBay's PayPal, according to newspaper reports.

The chief executive of an unnamed online retailer said it had been approached by Google to take part in the service, according to The New York Times.

The idea was also discussed last Thursday at a conference for analysts hosted by investment advisor Piper Jaffray, according to an earlier report in The Wall Street Journal.

No other details about the proposed service were published. Google could not be reached for comment.

The move would give Google the chance to diversify its revenue stream, according to the reports.

Google's main source of revenue is selling advertisements that appear next to search results and on its Froogle price comparison website.

The company reported a net income of $369m (£202m) for the three months ending 31 March, nearly six times the income for the same period the previous year, on surging advertising revenues. Revenue for the three months to 31 March was $3bn (£1.6bn), up 93 percent on the same period in 2004.