Mobile payments wars heat up as Microsoft prepares to enter the market

please pay hereIf the latest report proves accurate, Windows Phone users may soon have their very own mobile payments solution, just like their iPhone and Android smartphone toting friends. According to a report by USA Today, Faisal Khan, a banking and payments consultant at Faisal Khan & Company, has uncovered documents showing that Idaho has awarded Microsoft a money transmitter license.

According to a document from the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (NMLS), Microsoft Payments Inc. was awarded its Idaho money transmitter license on March 24.

Another document shows that Microsoft Payments Inc. has also registered with the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) as a money transmitter and provider and seller of prepaid access in all 50 U.S. States.

No other States have awarded the company a money transmitter license yet.

The Idaho license and FinCEN filing are clear indicators that Microsoft intends to enter the mobile payments market to compete with offerings from Apple Inc. and Google Inc.

Apple Pay has seen some early successes with consumers and banks and retailers have also adopted the mobile payments system in large numbers. While initial adoption seems impressive when compared to other mobile payments solutions, a recent survey of 1,000 iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus owners showed that only 6 percent of them had used Apple Pay since it was launched in September.

Google has also bolstered its mobile payments offering, Google Wallet, by acquiring key technology from Softcard, the mobile payments service backed by a consortium of carriers, and effectively neutralizing completion from its long-time rival. Softcard has shut down its mobile wallet apps. Google is also set to announce Android Pay soon. The platform will allow third-party app developers to include mobile payments functionality in their apps.

Also wanting its slice of the mobile payments pie, Samsung recently acquired LoopPay and subsequently announced that it will launch Samsung Pay, developed based on LoopPay’s technology.

Microsoft’s application for money transmitter licenses is perhaps not such a surprise in view of recent announcements by the company. In March, Microsoft announced that the mobile version of its forthcoming Windows 10 operating system will include support for Host Card Emulation (HCE). HCE allows for credit card information to be transmitted securely between a user’s smartphone and a payment terminal without the use of a Secure Element embedded in a carrier-supported SIM.

The company has also said that Windows 10 would support biometric access and facial recognition, both of which can be used to secure mobile payments.

It is still early days for Microsoft Payments though.

“As a mobile-first, cloud-first company, Microsoft continues to evolve our offerings to meet the needs of both our commercial customers and consumers,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Ars Technica. “Becoming a money service business gives us the flexibility to provide new, innovative cloud services to our customers but we do not have any product announcements at this time.”

Photo credit: Steven Depolo via Flickr