Last October Bill Gates gave Bitcoin a big boost. He said it’s “exciting” and “better” than traditional currency. Apparently his underlings at Microsoft listened up and quick. After all, Gates is officially their technical advisor.
Now, in partnership with Richard Branson-backed Bitcoin transaction processor BitPay, the software company Gates co-founded -- the world’s largest and richest -- is accepting the cryptocurrency as payment for downloadable digital content.
Now you can exchange bitcoins to buy apps, games & more for Windows, Windows Phone & Xbox http://t.co/btae0c6jvn— Microsoft News (@MSFTnews) December 11, 2014
With the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant clocking a market cap in excess of $380 billion and $86.63 billion in annual revenue, it’s now officially the biggest company in the world to get behind Bitcoin.
“For us, this is about giving people options and helping them do more on their devices and in the cloud,” Eric Lockard, corporate vice president of Universal Store at Microsoft, said in a Microsoft blog announcement published today. “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.”
The surprise move took place earlier this week and first became apparent to zero PR fanfare on Microsoft’s online payment hub. There the company explained that customers who want to use Bitcoin to pay for digital goods -- no physical products, like Microsoft Lumia smartphones, apply -- must first add the cryptocurrency to their Microsoft accounts. The process, laid out in four short steps, appears relatively straightforward.
As of today, U.S. customers can use Bitcoin to pay for games, apps, videos and music from Microsoft’s Xbox Games, Xbox Music, Xbox Video and Windows and Windows Phone stores. It’s not yet clear if or when Microsoft might expand the trendy payment option to additional countries. Also, Microsoft purchases made in the virtual currency aren’t refundable.
The news is music to Bitcoin backers’ ears. One Reddit user called Microsoft’s openness to Bitcoin payments a “really ace move,” while another expressed just how full circle the company has come. “The company that brought us internet explorer is embracing Bitcoin,” GooseGuy said. “The times, they are a changin’.”
This isn’t Microsoft’s first foray into Bitcoin. Last February it added a Bitcoin price converting feature to its Bing search engine. According to CoinDesk, Bitcoin is currently valued at $355.59 a piece.
Related: Is This the Next Bitcoin?