Microsoft’s 15-month long love affair with Bitcoin may be coming to an end, with the tech giant quietly removing the option to pay for items using the cryptocurrency in the Windows 10 and Windows Mobile stores at some point in the last week.
There was no official announcement from Microsoft, however, a page appeared in the Windows 10 support site that reads:
You can no longer redeem Bitcoin into your Microsoft account. Existing balances in your account will still be available for purchases from Microsoft Store, but can’t be refunded.
Microsoft first adopted Bitcoin payments in December 2014 as an option for users to buy apps, games, and other digital content from the Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox Games, Xbox Music, and Xbox Video stores; at the time of writing Bitcoin remains an option on Xbox-related sites, although for how long is another question.
At the time of Bitcoin being added as a payment option, Microsoft’s Eric Lockard sold the move as a way to provide more options to users, writing:
“For us, this is about giving people options and helping them do more on their devices and in the cloud … The use of digital currencies such as Bitcoin, while not yet mainstream, is growing beyond the early enthusiasts. We expect this growth to continue and allowing people to use Bitcoin to purchase our products and services now allows us to be at the front edge of that trend.”
While Microsoft argued that Bitcoin was not mainstream in December 2014, the market has rapidly changed in that time, including a record amount of venture capital flowing into Bitcoin startups in 2015.
In the broader fintech market the Blockchain, the distributed ledger that powers Bitcoin, is also going mainstream, so mainstream that Microsoft’s own Azure cloud hosting platform now offers Blockchain-as-a-Service.
There’s very little cost in Microsoft supporting Bitcoin payments beyond the initial setup, with transactions fees, despite increasing lately, still lower than those offered by traditional merchant service providers supporting payments from credit cards and other online methods.
Suffice to say that the decision for Microsoft to withdraw support for payment via Bitcoin can only be described as strange; we can only hope now that they don’t withdraw support for Bitcoin on the various Xbox stores as well.
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