Bloomberg BusinessWeek and the New York Times have both reported that Microsoft is looking to add support for Near-Field Communications (NFC) to the Windows Phone platform in the not-too-distant future.
NFC is short-range wireless technology that will enable mobile payments. Users with NFC-capable phones will be able to use their phones like a credit card to pay for products and services.
Microsoft isn't confirming the NFC reports. (Nor are officials denying them.) But after reading a few subsequent reports, it sounds to me like it is going to be Microsoft's new best-friend Nokia that will be delivering NFC -- at least initially.
Nokia is going to be demo'ing something at Microsoft's Mix '11 conference in mid-April, according to Microsoft Corporate Vice President Joe Belfiore, who did a Channel 9 interview about Mix recently. And Microsoft is going to be talking about more unannounced features of its "Mango" Windows Phone 7 update at the same show, he said. Perhaps Nokia will be demo'ing NFC running on a Windows Phone 7 Mango prototype?
(And remember: Nokia is not just another Microsoft partner. It is now Microsoft's premiere WP7 partner with special rights and privileges. Maybe one of the possible WP handset modifications from Nokia will have to do with NFC....)
Amid all this speculation, there's a more pressing question. Will users who've already bought Windows Phone 7 phones be able to get NFC support on their devices? Because NFC requires support at the chip level, I'd say the answer is no.
Update: As the Windows for Devices folks note (thanks, @gadgetsense), there could be a way to add NFC support via Bluetooth to older WP7 devices at some point. But phone vendors want to sell new phones, not "fix" old ones, so I'm betting it won't be a commonly deployed solution if and when it becomes available.
So if you're Microsoft, do you talk up NFC support, knowing that doing so could result in users postponing WP7 purchase plans? Or do you let Nokia talk up NFC, so as to entice users to wait for the first Nokia WP7s? If I were a betting woman, I'd say the Softies will take Door No. 2. That still won't make current WP7 users who may be interested in NFC very happy, but it's probably the lesser of two evils....