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Microsoft taps into Apple's Passbook, adds support in Windows Phone 8.1 [u]

Passbook pass on Windows Phone 8.1. Screenshot via Tom Warren.

With Apple's Passbook quickly becoming the de facto way for developers to create digital tickets, store cards and passes, Microsoft capitalized on ways to strip the data from .pkpass files and recompile them on handsets running Windows Phone 8.1.

Microsoft's native support for Passbook files in the latest Windows Phone release was detailed on Monday by iMore, which showed off how Passbook files can be viewed in Microsoft Wallet with the new 8.1 software update.

The approach is noteworthy because Passbook was developed as an Apple-only platform for iPhone, allowing users to have access to digital wallet items in a convenient fashion. Passbook is not open source or an industry standard, meaning up until now it has not been officially available on other platforms.

But Microsoft's support for Passbook is actually baked in to Windows Phone 8.1, meaning any user running the latest version of the company's mobile operating system can access Passbook passes on their device without the need for additional software or hacks. This is possible because Passbook is based on simple, open structures that allow third-party developers to access some —  but not all —  of the data included in a .pkpass file.

It's possible that Apple could take steps to block Microsoft from reading Passbook files on Windows Phone. Years ago, Apple had an ongoing dispute with Palm, as the rival handset maker would trick Apple's iTunes into thinking a Palm device was an iPod, allowing users to sync music with their handset. In a back-and-forth battle, Palm continued to find new exploits, while Apple continued to patch them.

Windows Phone 8.1 was unveiled by Microsoft earlier this month, with the defining feature being a Siri-like voice-driven personal assistant dubbed "Cortana." At the time, Microsoft made no mention of its built-in support for Passbook files, making it something of a stealth feature added in by the Redmond, Wash., software giant.