Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]
If you’ve used a Microsoft service in the past few years, there is a good chance that you ran into something called a ‘Microsoft Point.’ I bet you were confused. After all, in a world where the use of real currency is the norm (Facebook credits be damned), it feels odd to be forced to buy something, to buy something.
That’s why when news broke this January that Microsoft was moving away from Microsoft Points, TNW broke into applause. Here’s the rub: 80 Microsoft Points are worth $1. That’s almost as random as the number of feet to a mile. This makes buying anything with Microsoft Points a pain, as to discern its real cost you have to bust out a calculator to figure our how much real money you are about to drop.
The rumor was that all Microsoft point usage would end. Our take was that this would be a boon for Windows 8:
Microsoft Points, in use on the Xbox, Windows Phone, and Zune platforms have always been a bad idea. By forcing the conversion of currency into point units, Microsoft created a desperately odd system that confused users and developers alike; jokes that involve Microsoft Points are a staple on sites such as Reddit that are made up of gamers and the technologically savvy. No one will bemoan their passage.
However, by removing them entirely, Microsoft is clearing the pathway for a very important unification: the coming together of app sales on every single platform that it operates. Windows 8, which will contain the Windows Store, is a radical step for Microsoft, a company that dominates the sales of ‘software in a box.’ Digital distribution of software, through Microsoft channels, is its strategy, but until now it has been a disjointed affair.
We’ve been borne out by recent events since then, with it becoming known that in Windows Phone 8, code reuse, and likely, buy-once-play-everywhere is coming. The final details haven’t been locked down, but the idea of platform unification is alive and well.
However, in the current Consumer Preview build of Windows 8, there they are. Dangnabit, I said, after trying to buy a track and being prompted with my balance of Microsoft Points (4), there they remain. I find this to be a disappointment.
Now, to the good stuff. Right now, Microsoft is not allowing for commercial use of the Windows Store. Every application therein is free. Period. Why? The company is banging out its commercial arm for that product. Our guess, and this is just a hunch, is that the company will not release a commercial version of the Windows Store until it is ready to move all its apps that accept money in return for digital product to a real currency system.
Therefore, the lag in the Windows Store becoming a place to buy apps could be viewed as an indicator that Microsoft Points are indeed set to die. The company is using the Points system in its other apps, because, well, what else is it going to use? And as it moves its music and video options closer to the Xbox platform, where Microsoft Points spawn, it’s a fair choice for the moment. Our view hasn’t changed: Microsoft Points are dying. We just want to know when. Does anyone want 4 points?
We’ve reached out to Microsoft on this issue, looking for comment, but don’t expect them to get back to us before we publish (that’s the real way of saying ‘Microsoft was not immediately available for comment.’)
Update: Microsoft told TNW that it doesn’t comment on rumor or speculation.
Get the TNW newsletter
Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.