Microsoft joins mobile-payment push

Bloomberg News / March 31, 2011

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Microsoft Corp. is working on a version of its Windows Phone software that will let users buy merchandise with a flick of the handset at a checkout counter, two people familiar with the plans said.

Microsoft plans to include mobile-payment technology in new versions of its operating system for smartphones as part of an effort to narrow Google Inc.’s lead in handset software, said the people, who asked to remain anonymous because the features aren’t public. The first devices with these features may be released this year, they said.

The company joins a growing list of software providers aiming to benefit from rising demand for ways to purchase products and services. Mobile payments may be used in $245 billion in transactions in 2014, up from $32 billion in 2010, according to Gartner Inc. Chief executive Steve Ballmer is under pressure to regain mobile-software market share lost to Apple Inc.’s iPhone and Google’s Android.

The phones running Microsoft’s new software will be based on so-called Near Field Communication, which lets devices communicate wirelessly with objects immediately nearby. NFC technology enables payments and also lets consumers use a handset for other tasks, such as redeeming coupons.

Mobile-software providers are weaving NFC support into their operating systems. Google in December introduced an Android phone with NFC capabilities. Apple is said to be working on adding the feature to its mobile operating system.