Maybe this phone-as-wallet thing really is finally ready to take off. Bloomberg is reporting that Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) is set to jump on the NFC (near-field communications) bandwagon in a upcoming release of Windows Phone 7.
Microsoft would join Google (NSDQ: GOOG), which has been quite public about its plans, RIM (NSDQ: RIMM), and possibly Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) in pledging support for NFC technology, which would allow phones to act as wireless payment cards when swiped near a reader at a retail store or kiosk. There is much to be worked out between the mobile companies and the payments industry, which is how RIM’s interest in the space came to be known, but if Microsoft is ready to throw its support behind the technology in addition to the market leaders, retail stores will be more interested in holding up their end of the bargain.
That’s because a successful NFC system will require phones to come with the chip, software on the phones to process the payment, retailers to carry the wireless readers, and some sort of back-end payment system to make sure everything gets routed properly. For that reason, among others, interest in wireless payments has been high among mobile computer companies for some time but actual wireless payments have been rare.
It’s not clear whether or not Microsoft plans to work on an NFC phone with Nokia (NYSE: NOK) or with another Windows Phone 7 license, although Bloomberg reported Microsoft’s first NFC phone is expected to arrive this year. The rumor mill has been mixed on whether or not Apple is planning this type of system for the iPhone 5, but Google has already gone ahead and had Samsung put an NFC chip in the Nexus S.