Apple opens the door for digital currencies, such as bitcoin

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 June, 2014, 9:46pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 June, 2014, 4:34am

Hong Kong's biggest virtual currency trading platform hopes to benefit from a rewrite of rules by Apple that could soon allow the use of bitcoin and other digital money transactions on mobiles and tablet devices.

The Asia Nexgen (ANX) bitcoin exchange said the company would apply to have a ban lifted on its mobile and tablet app in a couple of days, after studying the latest policy shift from the iPhone maker.

Lo Ken-bon, co-founder and chief executive of ANX, said: "It's a very positive step that Apple is recognising virtual currencies are a big part of the online ecosystem and they are going some way to acknowledge that in some degree and hopefully they'll embrace it and allow it to co-exist."

Apple revised its policy on purchasing and currencies on Monday, triggering hopes it would end a block on a number of technology firms from using its iOS app platform to send virtual currencies to anyone, anywhere in an instant.

Apple said "apps may facilitate transmission of approved virtual currencies" without specifically addressing bitcoin, the largest kind of e-money. However, it warned that transactions had to comply with strict rules and regulations wherever apps were being used.

Governments and regulators fear digital currencies facilitate crime, such as money laundering and terrorism financing.

"The latest change signifies that Apple has realised their earlier policy, which was against the market, was not effective," said Michael Chau Chiu-lung, from the faculty of business and economics at the University of Hong Kong.

The change signals that Apple is warming to virtual currencies after previously blocking programmes like Blockchain from its App Store.

Bitcoin is the most popular of the digital currencies, which governments are struggling to regulate because they exist only as software.

"This is a sign that the ecosystem is maturing and gaining credibility," said Bill Lee, an investor in bitcoin wallet BitGo.

"To be clear, I still think bitcoin is in its infancy as a technology, but its acceptance is becoming more and more mainstream." Chau said support from a major company such as Apple was a boon to the development of digital currencies in Hong Kong.

"There are more investors and entrepreneurs eyeing Hong Kong as a place for bitcoin development, as we have seen the set up of several bitcoin start-up companies and the [ATM-style bitcoin machines] in Hong Kong in recent months."

After a surge in demand from China saw the price of a bitcoin rise sharply to US$1,242 late last year, it has since suffered from a series of regulatory crackdowns, tumbling to a low of US$360.

Bitcoin prices are at their highest in three months, topping US$652 yesterday.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg


Apple fails to excite with unveiling of iOS 8

Apple has unveiled a new operating system for its desktop and mobile devices, exciting developers with its updates but disappointing many who hoped to see a new product.

Developers are cheering signs the company is loosening its notoriously tight grip on the software that powers its devices, giving them greater freedom to tinker.

The new system for Macs, known as Yosemite, offers a cleaner look than its predecessors and is designed to mimic many of the features already used in the company's iPhone and iPad devices. It includes an updated Safari browser and allows users to start an activity on one device and finish it on another. Its updated online file storage system, iCloud Drive, could be a competitor to services like Dropbox.

Apple said the new mobile operating system, iOS 8, would give smartphone users better predictive typing suggestions and make it easier to respond to text messages.

The software updates also include a widely expected push into the increasingly popular health care market. Apple users will be able to pull together data from several different apps tracking their health data, from how many steps they have taken to what they have eaten, into a single place.

The Washington Post