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Microsoft Shows Off Windows Phone 8's Mobile Wallet, NFC Capabilities

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It's official: Windows Phone 8 includes NFC support, and that support isn't limited to hardware alone. Microsoft program manager John Skovron took the time to show off the near-field sharing capabilities and Mobile Wallet hub baked into Windows Phone 8 at the NFC World Congress last week -- though he also made a point of saying that Microsoft's won't be using the term NFC often, instead using consumer-friendly lingo like "Tap + Send."

Skovron demonstrated Windows Phone 8's capabilities by sharing photos between two devices as well as by playing music on his phone, then laying it on a Nokia Play 360° wireless speaker. NFCWorld.com reports the speaker seamlessly started blaring out the tunes. All in all, Tap + Send sounds very similar to Android Beam.

Windows Phone 8's Mobile Wallet received even more focus. Similar to the People or Office hubs, the Mobile Wallet serves as a central repository for your various shopping-related memberships, deals, tickets, passes and credit cards (dubbed "Fast Cards"), all of which are protected by a Mobile Wallet PIN. Users will be able to choose whether to use a Fast Card for mobile payments, NFC payments or both, while developers can use "Wallet agents" to dynamically display info for a given Mobile Wallet item, such as showing nearby deals or your account balance.

Standard NFC sharing options -- such as transferring pictures -- won't tap into the Secure NFC-enabled Mobile Wallet.

It sounds good, but when will we see Windows Phone 8 handsets and how many of them will include NFC capabilities? Skovon promised the release of the WP8 SDK is imminent and said that as far as he knows, virtually all Windows Phone 8 handsets currently in development include NFC capabilities even though they aren't a hard WP8 requirement.

Meanwhile, The Verge reports that Joe Belfiore claims that the Mobile Wallet function will be coming to all Windows Phone devices, so current Windows Phone 7 owners won't be left out in the cold completely, though it's important to note that  very few Windows Phone 7 handsets include NFC chips and therefor won't be able to take advantage of the NFC-enabled Tap + Send functions.