Tech giant Microsoft has made its mobile money move, adding a digital wallet and SIM-based NFC to its latest operating system, Windows Phone 8.
Taking the wraps off the new OS at a summit yesterday, Joe Belfiore, who runs Windows Phone product definition and design, claimed that Microsoft has developed what will be the most complete wallet experience on any smartphone when it launches this Autumn.
Like Apple's new Passbook app, the wallet aims to replace its physical counterpart by acting as a central hub where users can store all of their debit, credit and membership cards and coupons. These third party apps are integrated into the wallet though an API, meaning users can do things like check balances and collect coupons from one place.
Unlike Apple, Microsoft is also making an NFC play to enable users to make low value contactless payments with the cards in their wallet through a tap of the handset at the point-of-sale.
In contrast to another rival, Google, Microsoft has opted for a secure NFC SIM-based system. Belfiore told the audience at yesterday's summit that Google's decision to put the secure element in the device has had some "unfortunate side effects" with operators snubbing it because they want a SIM-based system that allows customers to keep it from one phone to the next.
Orange, which is the launch operator partner for the Wallet, has praised the SIM move. The company's Yves Maitre told the summit via video that it is important that Microsoft has aligned with the recommendations of the telco trade body, the GSMA, on the issue.
Orange will be first to market with the full wallet service when it launches in France in the Autumn but all phones with the new OS will include the wallet hub whether they have the secure SIM or not, meaning customers will still be able to store third party apps.
Belfiore also revealed that Microsoft has also been working with Isis, the US consortium of telcos that is building its own wallet, and expects to have its system on Isis at some point next year.