Microsoft launches digital gift cards ready for Christmas rush

It’s the time of year when attention turns to buying gifts. Black Friday is now out of the way, but there's still Cyber Monday for you to stock up on low-cost presents for yourself and others.

There are plenty of electronic devices vying for attention as companies try to tempt you into parting with your cash, but if you're the indecisive type, there's always the trusty fall-back of the gift card.

Keen to give you as many ways as possible to throw your money in its direction, Microsoft has launched Digital Gift Cards for Windows Phone. This is an app that does very much what you would expect, making it possible to buy and share gift cards from the comfort of your Windows Phone.

But Microsoft isn’t stupid. The gift cards themselves are not limited to Windows Phone purchases - they can be used to buy apps, games, movies and music from Xbox and Windows stores.

Great for a last-minute gift, the digital gift cards are emailed out the instant payment is made. Bringing the gift card idea to mobile devices is interesting. Should you find yourself out shopping and unable to locate the perfect gift for your friends and family, you can opt to sort out all of your gift buying over a coffee - send a batch of gift cards and leave your loved ones to decide what they would like to buy for themselves.

In a fine example of canny marketing, Microsoft is billing digital gift cards as "the perfect 'add-on' for family and friends receiving an Xbox or Windows device". Bought a Windows Phone, Xbox or even a Surface Pro 3 as a gift for someone? Microsoft thinks you might like to "top-up" the present with the gift card as an extra.

It's a bit of a cheeky idea, but it makes perfect sense from a money-making point of view.

Of course, this is not just an app that can be used at Christmas - although the timing is interesting to say the least. It is possible to schedule purchases throughout the year so you don’t forget an important birthday. Is it handy to have a dedicated app for this, or would the existing website have sufficed?

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