Microsoft opens up to bitcoin payment

​Microsoft has added bitcoin as a payment option for US-based Microsoft account purchases of Xbox games and mobile content, along with other products and services in its Windows Store.

Microsoft account holders now have the option of using bitcoin for purchases of digital content across a number of the software giant's platforms.

On December 11, Microsoft began allowing users to trade in the cryptocurrency at the going market value via third-party bitcoin payment processor BitPay and add the equivalent value to customers' Microsoft accounts.

At present, the account funds from bitcoin trade-in can be used to purchase content in the Windows Store, and in stores that house Xbox Games, Xbox Music, and Xbox Video.

According to the Microsoft account payments information page, the new bitcoin option is limited to customers in the United States, and that money added to a Microsoft account using bitcoin could not be refunded.

While the digital currency can be used to put funds into Microsoft accounts, it can't be used to pay directly for other Microsoft products and services, according to a Microsoft blog post.

Microsoft has also capped the amount that a customer can exchange and put into their account per day at $1,000 and no more than $5,000 to additional Microsoft accounts that are in a customer's name or registered by a single customer.

The company said that although the move to accept bitcoin for account funds won't allow users to pay directly for Microsoft products and services, the exchange process with BitPay provides an option to keep up with the changing needs of customers who are using micropayments and other banking alternatives.

Microsoft Universal Store corporate vice president Eric Lockard said that the company expects bitcoin use to continue to escalate, and said the new account payment offering would help keep Microsoft competitive as cryptocurrency becomes more widely used.

"For us, this is about giving people options and helping them do more on their devices and in the cloud," said Lockard. "The use of digital currencies such as bitcoin, while not yet mainstream, is growing beyond the early enthusiasts. We expect this growth to continue, and allowing people to use bitcoin to purchase our products and services now allows us to be at the front edge of that trend."

The move comes as Reddit's new cryptocurrency engineer and former bitcoin developer Ryan X Charles revealed some of the details of the social platform's cryptocurrency plans in a discussion with Redditors this week, including the proposed launch of a cryptocurrency backed by Reddit shares, coloured coins, and sidechains.

Charles, who came on as Reddit's first cryptocurrency engineer in September and has also done time with Microsoft's new bitcoin partner BitPay, works on Reddit's digital assets, as well as general purpose bitcoin infrastructure to enable functionality like micropayments and contracts.

"They announced this on Day 2 for me, I naturally volunteered to make this happen," said Charles. "However, I didn't really know anything about bitcoin 2.0 stuff like colored coins -- I was an expert in plain-old bitcoin 1.0... So I spent more than a month just researching the options.

"The options are, in a nutshell: Colored coins (there are 4+ protocols for this), sidechains, Counterparty, Mastercoin, Ethereum, Stellar, Ripple, NXT, and Open Transactions. We could also make an altcoin," he said. "I narrowed it down to colored coins and sidechains being our best options."