Microsoft Corp. has never been a dominant name in mobile payments, but it has dabbled enough in the process to draw interest around the payment potential of its Windows operating system.
Joe Belfiore, vice president and manager for the Windows Phone management at Microsoft, recently mentioned during a technology conference that Microsoft is developing a Windows wallet concept.
Because the Windows operating system recently added Windows Hello as a fingerprint or facial recognition biometric authentication system for Windows 10, speculation is that it will serve as an underlying security for this wallet.
Belfiore, speaking at a Lenovo Yoga launch this month, did not provide any more details about this project, other than saying he expected Microsoft to launch it soon, according to various reports.
It's possible that Microsoft could duplicate the level of attention and buy-in that Apple got last year with Apple Pay, said Marc Cochrane, an independent senior advisor in payments.
"You may see a similar lava bubbling with Microsoft," Cochrane said. "They have the resources and a heck of a balance sheet, and they need to be enabled in the payments space."
Microsoft has made other efforts in digital and mobile payments. The company's Windows Phone 8 Wallet launched in 2012, using Near Field Communication for contactless mobile payments and beating Apple to market by two years. However, the Windows Phone 8 Wallet never resonated with consumers.
Microsoft has also worked to integrate payments across its Windows and Xbox platforms, made a Starbucks app for the launch of its wearable Microsoft Band, and partnered with BitPay to support Bitcoin virtual currency payments. Its Windows systems are also the foundation for many ATMs and point of sale terminals.
To succeed with a new Windows 10 wallet, Microsoft has to establish partnerships with financial institutions and a brand like Visa or MasterCard to provide tokenization services, Cochrane said.
"It might be a traditional financial services type of play, sort of copying others, rather than being a first mover," Cochrane added. "But I would fully expect that Microsoft is going to go after this big."
It would be a "public relations and technology nightmare" if Microsoft didn't launch this wallet with some powerful partners behind it for some staying power, Cochrane said.
Belfiore, a 25-year veteran with Microsoft, announced a week ago he was taking a leave of absence from the company to spend more time with his family. He could not be reached for comment about the mobile payment initiative.