Microsoft revealed on 10th February that its Bing search engine will now automatically convert currency denominations to BTC in response to simple commands.
These include queries such as "$13 to BTC" or "0.45 BTC to euros," which when entered will reveal answers using the most up-to-date price data from San Francisco-based bitcoin wallet provider Coinbase.
The move is notable as it could represent a willingness on the part of Microsoft to embrace bitcoin. Further, the decision could force Google, the world's most popular search engine, to update its own currency converter.
Microsoft moves toward bitcoin
Microsoft, one of the world's largest software companies, has been silent on bitcoin, though its researchers have been studying it for some time.
Notably, the Washington-based company discontinued its own in-house virtual currency system last year. Before its demise, Microsoft Points allowed users to purchase games and media content on products such as Windows Phones and Xbox consoles.
Bing's BTC conversions will first be available in Australia, Canada, India, the United Kingdom and the United States, before debuting in additional markets.
Bill Gates sidesteps bitcoin questions
The announcement occurred on the same day Microsoft co-founder and technology adviser Bill Gates participated in an Ask Me Anything reddit discussion in which he was asked about his thoughts on cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.
The question, submitted by user shiruken, received 1890 points and quickly became the top question.
Gates did answer, but did not weigh in with Microsoft's position on bitcoin. Rather, he reiterated that his nonprofit, the Gates Foundation, believes that 'digital money' services such as Kenya's M-Pesa mobile service will continue to grow, especially in the developing world over the next five years. Gates elaborated:
"The foundation is involved in digital money, but unlike bitcoin it would not be anonymous digital money."
Google's next move
The decision by Bing could put pressure on Google, which has been similarly silent on all matters bitcoin, though obtained emails suggest that the company is at least taking a passive interest despite its PR silence.
Some media outlets have speculated it could try to one-up its rival by opening the doors to even more virtual currency conversions. Bing currently supports currency conversions for 50 currencies, however, Google supports a far greater number on its service.
Image credit: Bing home page