July 7, 2022
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Microsoft Tentatively Investigate Digital Asset Technology

Digital assets, encompassing cryptocurrency, NFTs and the like, are big news.
It’s little surprise that Microsoft, always at the forefront of developing technology, are tentatively exploring the benefits of such technology. They’ve confirmed that they continue to investigate possibilities across their product spectrum.

In August 2021, they were awarded a US patent for software they claim could make it easier for users to develop their blockchain applications, something Coin Desk described as a “ledger-independent system for helping users to create and manage tokens across different networks”. That might be one of the headline-grabbing Microsoft-backed involvements in emerging technology, but it is by no means the only one.

The focus on digital assets isn’t new; companies have been exploring the possibilities for a couple of years now, but 2022 has been the year of crypto. Elon Musk’s tweets have helped bring the market to mass attention, and the presence of digital assets in everyday life has made them more widespread in common culture. One such example is fan tokens, the most popular of which have been released by Socios. These digital assets have helped everyday sports fans support their teams from afar. They offer certain benefits for buyers and are backed by blockchain. Indeed, some bands have released albums as digital assets, offering free bonus content and access, which helps raise awareness in the same way as fan tokens.

With that increased exposure, it was clear Microsoft would continue to consider digital assets possibilities within their products, and they recently announced they were looking into NFTs and cryptocurrency within their gaming sector, dominated by the Xbox gaming division. Whilst digital assets have become popular in sports and entertainment, they have not taken as well in gaming. That hasn’t stopped Microsoft, with a representative telling Bloomberg the company was “aware and looking into NFTs, cryptocurrency and other emerging technologies, but don’t yet have anything to share”. Some gaming developers have fallen foul of the backlash aimed at digital assets in gaming, with Team 17 backtracking quickly after their planned Worms-themed NFTs were met with resistance from inside their own company, as well as from consumers, development partners and the gaming media.

Whilst the Xbox gaming division may find the path ahead rocky, other divisions within the Microsoft company have pressed on with digital assets and crypto-related projects. In March, the company moved into Web3 with an investment in ConsenSys, a project led by Ethereum co-founder Joseph Lubin. Ethereum is the principle crypto behind NFTs or other decentralized applications. It was one of the first crypto-related investments from Microsoft and showed the company’s willingness to move into the sector after resisting throughout the early years of bitcoin.

However, the world of crypto and digital assets is now becoming difficult to ignore. The public can support their soccer team by purchasing a fan token or get exclusive live content from their favorite band simply by buying their album as a digital asset. That means the occasional bet from Microsoft on the market is likely, but don’t expect them to go all-in on any in-house projects. As recently as June 15, Bill Gates claimed NFTs and crypto were “100% based on greater fool theory” and went on to say he wasn’t interested in crypto. “I’m not involved in that,” he said. “I’m not long or short any of those things.”

That means whilst Microsoft does appear to be open to certain elements within the digital asset market, it will remain focused on its core range of products, from Microsoft 365 to Xbox, without trying to exploit its dedicated and valued customer base needlessly. However, as innovators within the tech sector, Gates nor Microsoft can completely ignore digital assets in some form.

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