Will Microsoft Become a New Point Of Attraction For Blockchain Startups


In late 2014, Microsoft announced its plans to integrate bitcoin into payments systems of Windows and Xbox out of the blue. The move immediately influenced the cryptocurrency’s price, which back then was steadily growing. However, earlier this week there were several reports suggesting the corporation had rejected the appealing idea of embracing cryptocurrencies.The news seemed trustworthy, as Microsoft’s website read that users could “no longer redeem bitcoin” into their accounts. The integration of bitcoin never went any further than an introduction of cryptocurrency payments for selected Xbox and Windows products. It all caused the community to think the year-and-a-half experiment is over.

However, the corporation has soon dismissed the rumors.

“We continue to support bitcoin for adding money to your Microsoft account which can be used for purchasing content in the Windows and Xbox stores. We apologize for inaccurate information that was inadvertently posted to a Microsoft site, which is currently being corrected,”  reads Microsoft’s reply to the inquiry from ibtimes.com.

Overall, Microsoft has been as friendly to crypto-related stuff as a giant transnational corporation can only be. Even though bitcoin’s price was nearly three times higher the today’s level back in 2014, the project was never scrapped. Moreover, there are several activities undertaken by the corporation beyond cryptocurrency that make it one of the most involved traditional businesses when it comes to recent innovations.

In October 2015, Microsoft rolled out its BaaS (Blockchain as a Service) on its cloud platform Azure. The service became immensely popular with cryptospace-related projects, including such renowned ones as BitPay or Factom, which had gained notoriety following the media fuss around its non-existent partnership with Honduras.

Other notable examples of such companies and projects partnering with Microsoft’s platform include Emercoin, an altcoin whose price experienced an upsurge immediately upon the partnership announcement, or blockchain solution providers like MultiChain.

Just this week, two new names added to the list, being Slock.it and SysCoin, both engaged in developing decentralized platforms and organizations.

Finally, Ukraine’s blockchain system for state property privatization also employs Microsoft Azure services. The system allows anyone to launch access points for state auctions and even purchase state property for cryptocurrency.

Blockchain as a Service is powered by Ethereum, a project that probably needs no elaboration.

According to the corporation’s statements, the service provided enterprise customers with an opportunity to “have a single-click, cloud-based blockchain developer environment.”

All those moves have effectively made Microsoft Azure a platform of choice for most innovative efforts of recent days.

Speaking with CoinDesk, Marley Gray, director of technology strategy at Microsoft, said:

“We want, and frankly our customers want, access to every blockchain. It could be two guys in a garage that forked bitcoin and had this genius idea and people want to try that out. We don’t want to have any barriers. We’re open to all. We help even the smallest of players onboard.”

He envisions the Azure BaaS platform evolving into a “certified blockchain marketplace” as early as spring 2016.

According to his statements in an interview with CoinDesk, he considers Microsoft a ‘gatekeeper’ for the service as the technology is still premature.

Microsoft’s activities, however, are not restrained to providing its cloud platform to crypto-technology companies. The corporation went even further in its efforts to provide a “Switzerland-type” neutral environment for development, as Gray put it.

The corporation took some part in major blockchain-related experiments. Thus, while not effectively involved in R3 CEV’s experiments with blockchain technology, Microsoft still was a part therein, as those experiments ran inside Azure.

Gray highlighted the corporation’s neutral stance in this area.

“We’re looking at places where we’re not competing with our customers and partners, but we’re trying to be that platform company we’ve traditionally been. You’re not going to see us writing an equities trading platform.”

However, the interest for blockchain is obvious with Microsoft.

“Enterprise-scale and enterprise-grade infrastructure is going to be vitally important for this financial infrastructure that will be woven using blockchain over these next few years,” Gray said.

“I don’t think it will be solely in Azure, but it can be a backbone,” he added.

by Jenny Aysgarth

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