Making the announcement on Thursday, Microsoft also revealed it has tied up with operator China Mobile in China, Claro in Brazil, and Verizon Wireless in the US to rollout carrier billing for Windows Phone customers on those networks. Microsoft says it has now established similar deals with 81 carriers in 46 markets.
The carrier billing facility will allow Idea subscribers using Windows Phone handsets to purchase paid apps and other content from Microsoft's Windows Phone Store, and have the charges billed to them on postpaid plans or deducted from their balance on prepaid plans.
Microsoft's partnership with Idea, India's third-largest telecom operator, will certainly be useful to Windows Phone users on the network - especially those that either don't have a credit card or for some reason don't want to associate it with the app and content store.
This is not the first time app store carrier billing has been offered by a telecom operator in India, with Nokia tying up with Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance to offer the subscribers the facility for the Nokia Store.
Carrier billing is especially useful in a country like India, where the credit card culture has not yet matured and most smartphone users either not possessing a credit card or unwilling to use them for the purpose. MediaNama notes that Google has been looking to offer operator billing on the Google Play store for a while in India, and has in the past even tied up with Reliance and Uninor but never ended-up offering the facility.
Microsoft in its blog post details the need for carrier billing in emerging markets, saying, "Many of us don't think twice about making an online purchase with a credit card these days, but that isn't true everywhere in the world. The World Bank estimates that 93 percent of people in emerging markets don't have a credit which means the majority of those people cannot purchase apps from most global app stores. [..] We set out to meet the growing demand for apps in emerging markets by working with carriers around the world to help their customers make purchases with their mobile phone account."
Microsoft's tie-up with Idea may usher similar partnerships with other carriers soon, and pave the way for Google and Apple. Notably, neither Microsoft or Idea Cellular have detailed how the revenue sharing would occur, something that has always been the bone of contention with operator billing of app stores - how would the revenue be split between the store owner, developer, and the telecom operator. MediaNama reports that it appears as if Microsoft has managed to ensure the developer share will not be reduced from 70 percent, and that Idea and Microsoft have worked out an arrangement for the remaining 30 percent.