Bill Gates has given the thumbs up to Apple Pay, and admitted that the company is pioneering NFC-based mobile payment solutions to ensure that they reach "critical mass for all devices" – including Windows Phone handsets.
In an interview with Bloomberg (via the Inquirer), Gates said that: "Apple Pay is a great example of how a cell phone that identifies its user in a pretty strong way [i.e. the fingerprint sensor] and lets you make a transaction that should be very, very inexpensive."
He continued: "So the fact that in any application I can buy something, that's fantastic. The fact I don't need a physical card anymore, I just do that transaction and you're going to be quite sure about who it is on the other end, that is a real contribution."
Gates also said that mobile payments definitely represented the future of retail, and that all handsets would eventually come with NFC payment solutions, including Windows Phone devices. He noted: "And all the platforms, whether it's Apple's or Google's or Microsoft's, you'll see this payment capability get built in. That's built on industry standard protocols, NFC. And these companies have all participated in getting those going."
The drawback with NFC, of course, is the fact that hardware is required to read the devices at checkout, which isn't the case with all mobile payment systems. Indeed, Walmart and some other big names have refused to adopt Apple Pay because of this, preferring CurrentC which can operate via the checkout scanners already present in stores.
How this battle will play out in the long run, we shall have to see – but Gates seems confident enough that NFC will win the day.
The other question regarding Apple Pay is when we'll finally see it in the UK. It goes live in the US with iOS 8.1, which could be out as soon as next week, or possibly the week after.