Apple's Passbook passes are being used by Windows Phone 8.1 and Microsoft Wallet

When Apple introduced Passbook apps, passes, tickets, help, and how-to") in iOS 6 they billed it as a way to store all your tickets, coupons, boarding passes, loyalty programs, and other cards all in one place. It's hard to imagine they expected that place to one day be Microsoft Wallet, but thanks to Windows Phone 8.1 that appears to be exactly what's happening.

Passbook passes are just collection of data that get rendered into a card and displayed in Apple's Passbook app. Think of the Passbook files like the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript data that makes up a webpage, and the Passbook app like the browser that renders the actual page. It looks like Windows Phone 8 is taking the same data and rendering a similar card out of it, and then pushing that card to Microsoft Wallet.

Apple code-signs their Passbook cards, and it's not yet clear if Microsoft is simply accepting Apple certificates or accepting any pass regardless of whether it's signed or not.

Apple also provides a push-notification-based service to update cards, like gate numbers on boarding passes or balance info on Starbucks cards. Windows Phone can read and render the .pkpass bundle, but they probably can't hook into Apple's push system so, if updates are possible, there'd have to be some Microsoft-specific support from the supplier, or laborious polling process in place.

In a perfect world a system like Passbook would be universal and everyone could use and benefit from it no matter who manufactured their device or built their operating system. That's how we get standards and standards is how we get mass market adoption.

From Apple's point of view, however, Passbook is a feature that adds to the value of the iPhone and the experience of iPhone customers.

If there's no official agreement going on here, it's possible Apple would put a stop to Passbook support when they find out about it and if they can, technically or legally. If there's some form of cooperation going on, or some future agreement to be had, that could end up being a good solution for everyone, from the companies to Apple and Microsoft to us, the people who want these kinds of services made ubiquitous.

What about you — do you like the idea of Windows Phone 8.1 working with Passbook?

Via: @tomwarren

Daniel Rubino contributed to this story.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Without a doubt apple will stop it. It would be out of the ordinary for apple it they let it go on. They keep everything proprietary! Nexus 5... enough said
  • How are they going to stop this? One can't stop someone else from reading data, because that's all that's happening here. Nothing more.
  • "Nexus 5...enough said" Enough to throw us actual intellectuals with iPhones in to fits of laughter.
  • "Intellectuals" LOL
  • That's pretty cool that it works in WP 8.1. But, as Apple did with the Palm Pre and iTunes, I'm sure they'll eventually put a stop to it.
  • Maybe not either. Apple and Microsoft tend to be a lot more willing to share between each other than they are between other companies. They do have one of the most expansive cross-licensing agreements out there...
  • Lol, is the enemy of my enemy my friend?
  • I am not sure I even like Passbook. I want to keep all my Loyalty cards on my phone but I do not want the ads and offers. I just don't care about them. I just dont want to carry a keychain full of tab cards and a wallet with a Loyalty card I use once a month.. I do carry them because I have found an app that does it and doesnt bugg me with offers.
  • Passbook doesn't have ads. Sent from the iMore App
  • use CardStar , it's pretty awesome
  • What app were you using? Passbook doesn't have ads
  • If Apple can make money on it, it will stay. If passbook becomes a standard for payments, I don't see why they wouldn't want it on all available platforms like iTunes. I'll bet that if they share, iPhones will still get some exclusive features, though.
  • Too bad most passes are created in apps. I would love to get a boarding pass with a pass attached in the email instead of having to run the app first. At least.. this has been my experience.
  • I forget which hotel chain, Hyatt, maybe? Anyway, their email confirmations come with an "Add to Passbook" button, which does just that. No app required. Sent from the iMore App
  • Yeah, its Hyatt!
  • If you have your boarding passes emailed to you, there's a link to add them to Passbook. Well, at least Delta & United offer that...I rarely fly with anyone else.
  • I've been disappointed in Passbook. The Starbucks pass works great and if more businesses would adopt Starbucks type performance I'd love it. Sadly few have come on board and getting local loyalty cards to load doesn't work for me.
    As for letting Microsoft use it, hopefully it will encourage Apple and other businesses to sign on. If that's the case then I'd hope Apple wouldn't stop the possible increase in new vendor signing on. That said I wouldn't be surprised to see Apple tell Microsoft to stop as it is a feature that Apple developed to encourage sales of iPhones.
  • Walgreen's, Delta & United also work great.
  • maybe i'm misunderstanding this but i'm I don't see where Apple can object. If it's just a collection of data, say your Delta airlines itinerary, account number, a bar code, etc., I don't see why any company couldn't use the same data to make a scannable digital card for any phone. In this case it seems that data wouldn't be Apple's to control anyways but Delta, or Starbucks. In fact isn't that what apps like lemon wallet (now lifeloc) are doing when they add a card to passbook? It wouldn't seem that Windows Phone 8.1 is "working with Passbook" because Passbook isn't on a Windows phone but rather Windows Phone has simply created it's own version of passbook using the same data. And i'm guessing they've maybe they've made their app capable of importing the passport files like the kind you can create on passsource. Anyways i may be wrong but i'm not seeing anything problematic.
  • Microsoft can't say they support Passbook if they don't have any agreements in places because Apple owns the trademark on "Passbook". With that in mind, Microsoft can do whatever they want with the Passbook files, these files are just HTML/JS/CSS files wrapped in a single container. Microsoft just happens to know what the format is and coverts it to their own native format for their Wallet app. This is fully legal and Apple has no legal standing to say otherwise. If Apple wants to change this, all they have to do is include an encryption standard for Passbook files next time. Microsoft will not be able to read them or if they try, it's a violation of the laws because that's pretty much breaking the encryption.
  • On a separate point i still find almost no added benefit to passbook. I've used it for Starbucks, Delta boarding pass, and to redeem a Old Navy Gift card balance, that card was added using something like a Lemon Wallet. Well Starbucks and Delta both already had scannable cards/boarding passes in their apps prior to Passbook and both apps do a lot more than passbook. When i tried to redeem the Old Navy gift card Old Navy couldn't scan it. Luckily the card number was on the passbook entry so they could manually enter it and show my remaining balance. So though cool i've found passbook duplicative or not working as advertised. Additionally, my grocery loyalty cards can't go in it and even if they could my grocery stores don't have a scanner capable of reading off phones. 90% of the time i'd say i use my Starbucks app instead of Passbook. Passbook isn't bad, I just am struggling to find much real world use for it that i didn't have, all this time after launch. In fact I have the exact same three apps in there like a month after Passbook launched. I haven't found more chances to utilize it.
  • A couple things: Passbook files are code-signed by Apple. Not sure how that's being handled by WP8.1 Apple might have one or more patents, or applications, for elements of Passbook, and that'd be interesting to see played out. (I might even have linked to one in the article above!)
  • 1. Code signature just means that the file was written by a verified company, it doesn't mean the files can't be read and converted to something else. Customers probably won't care once it goes into Microsoft Wallet since Microsoft will then take over of updating the data. 2. The data itself cannot be patented, it doesn't matter what Apple have. Microsoft is simply reading the data and converting the data. That's like saying Apple have patents on Safari and Chrome therefore can't read files that Safari saved as HTML/.webarchive. Chrome can render the same way anywhere they want, Apple cannot legally say otherwise. Microsoft probably is just using their own data sources to replace Apple's and updating it for the customers. If you're talking about the Microsoft's Wallet app's design, I'm not seeing anything to suggest Microsoft is intentionally ripping off Apple's Passbook app. Are there any more screenshots?
  • For you're second point: data can't be patentated. And even if it could, it doesn't matter: Microsoft can use any Apple patent it want. Apple can use any Microsoft patent it want. They have made a deal about that, years ago.
  • 1. I'm not knowledgable about such things but it would seem to me that it wouldn't matter. Microsoft has done nothing more than make an app that can read passbook data. As you say "it looks like Microsoft is taking the same data and rendering" it. Well isn't the data simply the junk about your account like the account number you have to enter to make these files? It's been since launch since i've made one. That wouldn't be Apple's data anyways.
    2.Is it possible to patent the process to make the files? Yes. But that doesn't mean Microsoft even uses the process. If the applications are different which they'd likely have to be to work on Windows then you're talking about two different products and patent protection in the design likely wouldn't flow nor copyright as they aren't substantially similar. Regardless, at this point Apple having a patent that would prevent anyone else from reading such a file is purely speculative. And even if they patent elements of Passbook, unless microsoft is using the same app I don't see that as protecting them much. Even if you want to make a claim that they violate the look and feel well it's quite easy for Microsoft to simply alter how the app is presented so it doesn't look similar. Regardless, i don't see a problem. I don't see anyone doing anything but making a competing product with compatible standards.
  • I don't really see the problem here. The more the merrier in my opinion. Samsung has their version too.
  • Not sure I do either since Passbook is just something that most hide in a folder.
  • I sat in a session about this at Microsoft's BUILD conference. Basically they just read the pass data and add it to the Wallet. There's no ability for an app to interact with it, so as a company even if you have a native Windows Phone app you can't do any sort of live notifications or updating of the Passbook pass in the Wallet. During the session Q&A someone asked how the signatures were handled. The response back seemed to indicate they simply don't check the signature. Editing to add: the line from the product folk at Wallet was simply, we did this to help companies support Wallet without extra code on their side. If you have a system that emails people a Passbook pass with a "click here on your iPhone" link, you can just say "your iPhone or your Windows Phone" and your customer is good to go. Since so many Passbook passes are distributed via email or web link, seems like a very convenient feature for WP-using customers of those companies.
  • Great insight, thanks for sharing!
  • I wouldn't be surprised if Apple agreed to share passbook info. It is too their advantage to ensure Passbook has sufficient gravitational pull to become successful. It is not adopted widely enough as yet (in the UK for example, there are very few pass providers). Strategically Apple is better off forming an alliance with Microsoft than Google because that way they make Passbook more attractive for pass suppliers and undermine the competitive services Google/Samsung try to champion.
  • Oh boy!! Perhaps Microsoft should have named the Feature (My-QR-Documents )...
  • If you click on the Little info button. You see a switch for notification in the end. Looks like it does give notifications also
  • Our experience is, dynamically updated Passbook content can be a lot more engaging for customers. Airline tix -> update with gate changes. Store cards -> update with points or managers specials. So if Windows 8.1 does provide some mechanism for updating dynamically we'll love it.