Microsoft Adding NFC Support to Windows Phone 7 (Report)
Microsoft is adding support for NFC (near field communication) to its Windows Phone mobile operating system, according to a report citing unnamed sources over on Bloomberg Businessweek. NFC technology, which allows for short range wireless communication between two devices for the purpose of data exchange, is a key component to the upcoming mobile payment and mobile wallet systems now reportedly under development at Google, RIM and Apple as well as the new carrier-led initiative Isis, a coalition of three of the four major cellular providers here in the U.S.
Support for NFC technology in Windows Phone 7 will be released via an update to Microsoft’s mobile operating system, sources told Bloomberg reporters. Those updates may arrive sometime this year.
Bloomberg says that the addition of NFC is an effort to close the gap between Microsoft and Google, the latter which is currently the leading smartphone platform here in the U.S., and, according to at least one analyst firm, worldwide.
Google’s Android mobile operating system added in NFC support in the release code-named “Gingerbread” (Android 2.3) and has incrementally added new capabilities since then to broaden its feature set. In February 2011, for example, an update delivered the ability to both read and write to standard NFC tags, whereas before the NFC support was read-only.
The ability for data to flow both ways is critical for mobile payments initiatives such as the one Google is reportedly working on with partners Citigroup and MasterCard.
The Bloomberg report doesn’t say whether Microsoft will follow Google’s lead, rolling out crippled NFC support to Windows Phone 7 at first, then gradually updating the software through additional software releases. It’s possible that, when added, Microsoft will offer full read/write NFC support from the very start.
Microsoft’s newest partner Nokia, which will launch its own Windows Phone devices sometime in Q1 2012, or possibly Q4 2011, has been a longtime player in the NFC market, offering a variety of handsets that allow for this capability. Nokia has also promised that all its Symbian-based phones introduced this year will include NFC support by default.
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