Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates talked up his vision for a micropayments strategy during the World Economic Forum in Davos. While articles by the mainstream media don't explain details (if any) that Gates outlined, the overall strategy sounds a lot like Microsoft's existing "Points" system that allows Xbox and Zune customers to make small-dollar-value purchases over the Web.
Microsoft has been seeking a solution to the micropayments conundrum for years. Anyone else remember Microsoft's old "digital wallet" concept -- that morphed into Microsoft PassPort, which then morphed into Windows Live ID? Live ID is the secure authentication system for Xbox Live, Office Live and many Windows Live services.
(Late last week, Microsoft bundled together all of its Windows Live software development kits into a mega Windows Live SDK offering. But the elusive Windows Live ID SDK, which will allow developers to build micropayment and other systems delivering secure financial transactions over the Web, isn't among them.)
The micropayments solution of which Gates spoke at Davos doesn't seem to be some brand-new technology -- accompanied by yet another diabolical Microsoft plot for world domination -- coming out of left field. Windows Live Points (which could be rebranded MSN Points, just to keep things confusing) is already in place. The missing element is third-party backing for it.