by Evan Sixtin
Martin Butler, Account Executive at Microsoft announced in a December 22, 2016, post on LinkedIn plans for an aggressive rollout of new features in 2017 for Microsoft's best-selling Office 365 Software Suite, and one of those features will be advanced Bitcoin support for Excel spreadsheets.
Yes, folks, it seems that 2017 will be the year that Bitcoin gets all cleaned up, puts on a nice shirt and pants and goes to work. Butler states, "Excel will be able to recognize, format, calculate, and analyze numbers expressed in Bitcoin currency." Wait, did he say "Bitcoin currency?" Yes, he did. Bitcoin support will be available for Excel running under Windows 10, Android, Mac OS, and iOS, and will include Excel mobile versions as well.
When one thinks of Microsoft, the terms "bleeding edge technology" and "brand spanking new" do not come to mind. In reality, Microsoft is like the 40-something-year-old guy at work who keeps trying to hang out with the 20-year-olds. Microsoft Windows has been with us for a long time. The first version, Windows 1.0, was released on November 20, 1985. Microsoft Windows is so mainstream; it is more or less forced down the throat of every single person in the world today who buys a new computer or laptop, whether they want it or not.
From another perspective, however, Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft, is a veteran pioneer in the technology industry, and Microsoft can claim a unique and distinguished title: "The World's First Software Company." So maybe there is something to learn from that "40-year-old guy," who also happens to be the richest man in the world still, what do you think? (Disclaimer: Bill Gates is 61 years old at the time of this article.)
We just have to get used to it, guys, Microsoft is cool again. In fact, Microsoft has been supporting bitcoin and digital currencies since December 2014 when the tech giant announced that it would be accepting bitcoin as "a payment option to buy apps, games and other digital content from Windows, Window Phone, Xbox Games, Xbox Music or Xbox Video Stores."
Furthermore, in November 2015, Microsoft launched Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) on Azure. Since then, Azure has added several distributed ledger technologies catering to a variety of industry needs in hopes of making Azure "a rapid, low-cost, low-risk, and fail-fast platform for organizations to collaborate by experimenting with new business processes, backed by a cloud platform with the largest compliance portfolio in the industry." Microsoft has also been the Premiere Sponsor for Ethereum's DevCons and has supported multiple meetups and summit conferences in the space.
Bill Gates, a long time ago, intentionally or unintentionally, revealed Microsoft's simple business plan. He said in a famous interview with Steve Jobs at D5, a WSJ Executive Conference in 2007, "So the question was, what's the next paradigm shift (in computer technology) that would allow for an entry?" Microsoft is still chasing the train when it comes to touchscreen technology and mobile phones; they missed the target entry point for that market, and it hurt them significantly.
But Microsoft will not allow themselves to get left behind again, and they have taken a leadership position in the implementation and distribution of blockchain and shared distributed ledger technology. At this rate, Microsoft can be expected to be a key player in the future of digital currency and distributed ledgers. For those of us who prefer open-source software, let us hope LibreOffice Calc follows suit and adds Bitcoin support as soon as possible.
The updates made in Excel to support Bitcoin will provide a basis for further support of Bitcoin in the Microsoft codebase; this is expected to be utilized in the future by all Microsoft software including Windows OS. So there it is, Microsoft and Bitcoin, snug as a couple of bugs in a rug, there is no separating them now.