Microsoft flashes fat mobe wallet, whispers: 'Just rub our hub'
But don't mention NFC nor Windows Phone
Microsoft has showed off its Windows Phone Wallet - which sits in version 8 alongside the Games and People Hubs, but stores payment and loyality cards rather than games and business cards.
However, the software giant would prefer not to talk about NFC - the wireless data transfer tech behind pay-by-wave - or Windows Phone for that matter, for fear of being marginalised.
Redmond's reps were presenting at NFC World Congress, dutifully attended by NFC World, which nabbed some slides from the event, and showed how the Windows Wallet Hub would present ticketing and payment applications.
But more interesting was the explicit avoidance of the term "NFC" and Microsoft's emphasis on how its Wallet strategy will go a long way "beyond" mobile telephones.
"It's not just a phone with a 2 per cent market share: it's Windows," the group product manager for Windows Phone 8 told the assembled, intimating they should take Microsoft's foray into digital wallets seriously despite the limited reach of its mobile platform.
Having got through the usual demonstrations of speaker pairing and image transfer – both accomplished over Bluetooth connections negotiated by NFC – Redmond's finest moved onto the Wallet Hub, which acts as a collection of loyalty and payment cards ("Fast Cards" as MS would have us call them) with Live-Tile-like updates showing additional offers or a remaining balance.
That's directly comparable with Apple's PassBook app, though PassBook has the additional feature of popping up content based on location and/or time - so a train ticket will be on the idle screen just before the train leaves. The Microsoft SDK isn't out yet, though it's promised soon, so we're still waiting to see what Wallet apps can do.
Microsoft has previously said that pay-by-bonk will be left to the network operators, using the secure element embedded in the SIM, so the lack of emphasis on NFC is understandable. NFC isn't even mandated by the Windows Phone 8 spec, although Microsoft has "strongly encouraged" it, and it seems that all the announced handsets have NFC capability. Essentially, Wallet applications are expected to make use of NFC, so punters can pay-by-bonk with their phone and a suitable till or payment system.
But the network operators are planning to fund NFC SIMs by renting out space on the SIM to loyalty schemes and ticketing apps, putting them in competition with Microsoft – despite Redmond's pro-operator stance. Windows Wallet will present SIM and local apps through the same interface, which is good for the user, but will make it harder for the operators to justify the price of their rent. ®