At the end of 2014, Microsoft announced plans to integrate the cryptocurrency bitcoin — at the time experiencing an unprecedented surge in value — into its Windows and Xbox payments system. The news caused the price of bitcoin to surge, but the initiative never really gained widespread support. Microsoft is now looking beyond bitcoin, however, and trying to create a marketplace for the blockchain, the distributed ledger technology on which bitcoin is built.
While bitcoin may have grabbed the headlines with its wildly fluctuating value and its mysterious creator, known only as Satoshi Nakamoto, it is blockchain that is seen as the real innovation. On Monday, IBM announced it would put major resources into helping its customers to develop apps built on the blockchain, and Microsoft is also eager to gain an advantage over competitors by building what it calls a “certified blockchain marketplace” on its Azure cloud platform.