There's been a parting of ways happening in the tech sector between those who support open source software and projects, and the traditional build-it-ourselves approach that's more common in banking. Microsoft this month joins Twitter in supporting the bitcoin blockchain, while Facebook is going with its own cryptocoin. Apple, we suspect, will follow Microsoft. Amazon: who knows? But not for the first time, Lafferty News wonders if bitcoin's pseudonymous founder Satoshi Nakamoto is in fact Bill Gates.
There's a convergence happening around Microsoft and digital currencies and blockchain, and Microsoft has arguably re-invented itself with Azure and the step to open source. Three years ago, Bloomberg asked Bill Gates why he became interested in finance. "It's all about helping the poorest," he said. "One thing they don't have access to is bank accounts. The fee structure if you have small amounts of money is just too high. We got involved in some traditional microlending but just didn't see how that could scale up." While Gates has given different opinions on bitcoin, Microsoft and the Gates Foundation are all in on blockchain and digital assets. Remember, Microsoft has regained its position as one of the most valuable companies in the world, with enormous reach and influence.
Yesterday, Microsoft announced the launch of its decentralised identity solution, which will be implemented on the bitcoin blockchain. Christopher Allen of the W3C consortium told Coindesk that this will open up decentralised identity for enterprises using Microsoft products. This is news: in the last couple of years, some banks have argued that they are the perfect custodians of digital identity, with the Nordic countries in particular leading the way. Will banks be too late to open up their systems? Microsoft's re-invention has been built around a shift to open source software, and its willingness to contribute to building a new digital ecosystem. "Yorke Rhodes, a program manager on Microsoft's blockchain engineering team, told CoinDesk that Microsoft's team has been working for a year on a key signing and validation software that relies on public networks, like bitcoin or Ethereum, yet can handle far greater throughput than the underlying blockchain itself. Underscoring the fact that Microsoft was a founding member of the Decentralized Identity Foundation, Rhodes said: 'There are systems that we have at Microsoft that give you permissions in an enterprise context, a product called Active Directory, that we think need to be able to recognise these DIDs as well.' He added such infrastructure products and services related to Azure are among the Microsoft's most popular offerings. This tiny piece in a giant machine, then, could have far-reaching impacts."
Indeed, Azure and its cloud offering have become central to Microsoft. But what of Bill Gates himself? Surely he's got nothing to do with Microsoft these days? Lafferty News reported recently on the collaboration between Orange Money and MTN (with a total of 300 million customers between them in Africa) which will be built using Mowali, which stands for mobile wallet interoperability, a phrase sure to send most bankers to sleep. "Mowali is built on the open-source software payment platform Mojaloop, of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation," Daily Fintech reminds us. "The aim is Interoperability at a pan-African level." So is convergence around blockchain a real possibility? Lafferty News is not the only observer noting that new blockchain-based technologies are starting to hit the consumer market through businesses such as Microsoft and indeed Samsung. "Rhodes cited a number of consumer-facing technologies that he believes are demystifying blockchain and helping the public to adopt it--especially the recent upgrade to Opera that puts a crypto wallet in the browser and the Samsung S10, which includes a wallet on every phone."
The Lafferty International Cards, Payments and Mobile Council convenes tomorrow with the International Retail Banking Fintech Council meeting on Thursday, so the Lafferty News team is offsite until Friday 17 May. Follow us in the meantime on Twitter: our handle is @laffertynews.
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