As promised, Microsoft is finally issuing Windows Store gift cards in time for the holidays.
The move addresses one of the Windows Store's most glaring omissions. Both the Apple App Store and Google Play offer gift card purchases. Now, Microsoft is getting in on the act by kicking off a promotion in time for the critical gift-giving season.
Microsoft spokesperson Brandon LeBlanc, announced on the company's Windows Blog that buyers of touch-enabled Window 8 and 8.1 PCs or tablets will receive a promotional $25 Windows Store gift card. The offer is valid at participating U.S. retailers—a list that includes Amazon, Fry's and the Microsoft Store—and lasts through Dec. 28 or until supplies are exhausted.
Unlike purchased gift cards, the promotional cards have a limited shelf life, warns Microsoft. Promotional gift card codes "must be redeemed by 02/28/2014 and the funds from the card must be spent within 120 days of the date the card code is redeemed."
Microsoft is running similar promotions for non-U.S. shoppers in select markets. In total, Windows Store gift cards are now available "in over 25 markets from more than 100 retailers" worldwide, stated LeBlanc. Windows Store gift cards are currently available in $15 and $25 denominations in the United States and can be used to buy apps and games.
The company expects the payment option, along with new carrier billing partners, to help drum up Windows app sales. Developers are being encouraged to get on board.
When Microsoft first announced that the gift cards were on the way, Todd Brix, general manager for Windows Phone Apps and Store, said his company expected shoppers "to have over $100 million dollars (USD) available in their Microsoft accounts to spend on app and in-app purchases" during the holidays. The announcement was intended, in part, to provide developers with a "head start so you can finish that app you've been working on or tune up an existing app in time to take advantage of these new opportunities."
LeBlanc noted that there are "over 100,000 apps in the Windows Store," a far cry from the more than 1 million apps available in each of its rivals' app stores, namely Apple App Store and Google Play. Yet in terms of big name apps, Microsoft is narrowing the gap.
As well, the company announced on Dec. 4 that Mint.com's free personal finance app was now available for Windows 8/RT. Mint.com, an Intuit subsidiary, already published apps for iOS and Android.
The company touted how Windows 8's self-updating Start screen UI, adds a new twist to the popular app. The Mint.com team wrote in a blog post that "besides being able to link users to more than 20,000 different bank, credit card, loan and investment accounts, Mint Windows users get a consolidated view of their money using real-time updates via Live Tiles."