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Microsoft has sent waves through the bitcoin world by accepting the currency on its Xbox sites and other content portals. Eagle-eyed users on Reddit noticed this sudden change in the last 24 hours. The bitcoin payment option has not yet been formally announced.

For digital products, bitcoin is now a valid payment method on many Microsoft websites, but only for customers in the USA. This shift effectively means bitcoin can be used to pay for apps for Windows and Windows Phone, as well as games and content for Xbox. Bitcoin can also be used to pay for digital gift certficates once it has been converted.

The bitcoin payment is not a direct payment to a Microsoft bitcoin wallet. The user tops up through BitPay ,the bitcoin amount is then converted and added to the user’s balance. It can be used to pay for digital content, and both BitcoinMicrosoftdesktop and smartphone users can benefit.

Microsoft has also set up some specific help content for bitcoin users. It says there may be a payment delay while the blockchain updates, just as there is with any bitcoin payment. Unlike some payment methods accepted by Microsoft, bitcoin payments can’t be refunded once they have been sent, but it looks like Microsoft will investigate in special circumstances.

Microsoft has been hinting at bitcoin integration for some time. Some parts of its Bing search engine already feature bitcoin, including its currency converter. Bill Gates’ position mirrors that of many entrepreneurs and CEOs: bitcoin has potential, but isn’t yet mature enough for widespread adoption. Gates said the low cost of bitcoin was a real advantage, as was the ability to send large amounts of money over large distances.

BitPay, an online payment processor, powers Microsoft’s adoption of bitcoin. It’s successfully improving the reputation of the currency by doing away with the main risk to business: volatile exchange rates. As soon as a bitcoin payment hits BitPay, it’s converted to the vendor’s local currency, so there’s barely any time for it to devalue. That’s why so many brands are becoming more comfortable with bitcoin.

We’re looking forward to seeing Microsoft take bitcoin from all countries, not just the US. Until they open up the BitPay integration, this could be a short-term experiment. But it’s another positive step for bitcoin as it becomes trusted as a real alternative to old-fashioned payments. It’s also a positive step for Microsoft, a company which has recently behind the curve when it comes to innovation.

Read more about the new bitcoin integration at Microsoft via https://commerce.microsoft.com/PaymentHub/Help/Right?helppagename=CSV_BitcoinHowTo.htm.