A blog post on December 11 from Microsoft quietly announced that its customers can now use bitcoin to purchase certain products through third party payment processor BitPay, which also supports tech sales site TigerDirect and Virgin’s space flight offshoot Virgin Galactic.
Microsoft made its announcement with little fanfare on its blog and slotted into the FAQ list of billing and payment queries. Despite the quiet rollout it did lead to the inevitable flurry of speculation and publicity. This is hardly surprising, when businesses announce they accept the decentralized cryptocurrency a headline is often a given.
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However a company as large as Microsoft adopting bitcoin (for reference the currency itself is lower case but the blockchain coding is a proper noun) has been seen as further legitimation and may, some speculate, even lead to greater long term currency stability.
As yet only some content in the Windows Store, or in stores that house Xbox Games, Xbox Music or Xbox Video can be purchased with bitcoin. Users do not pay directly but rather add money to their Microsoft accounts, which then cannot be refunded. The service is US-only at this point and there is a $1,000 limit to how much money can be added to an account daily.
This isn't a total surprise from the company. Bill Gates said back in October that he was in favor of bitcoin: "Bitcoin is better than currency in that you don’t have to be physically in the same place and of course for large transactions currency can get pretty inconvenient."
Bitcoin news service CoinDesk opines that "Regardless of what the move means for Microsoft, this vote of confidence from a tech industry giant could have a wide range of effects on the bitcoin industry."
Meanwhile BitPay has said that "Microsoft has a long-term vision for bitcoin, BitPay and the blockchain. Starting with digital goods in the US is the logical first step, however, they want to expand to Europe and globally and add support for other products as part of that rollout."
Microsoft itself has been a little more circumspect, telling the Wall Street Journal that this constituted a toe-dip rather than the "aggressive" guns blazing suggested by excitable bitcoin users elsewhere. Either way this is a strong sign that bitcoin is maturing as a currency.
Source: Microsoft blogView gallery - 2 images