In a bid to prevent its CE operating system from being totally eclipsed in the new generation of mobile information devices, Microsoft Corp has formed an alliance with UK incumbent British Telecommunications Plc to develop what it calls handheld interactive wireless devices and a multimedia service. The two companies pledged substantial but unspecified resources for […]
In a bid to prevent its CE operating system from being totally eclipsed in the new generation of mobile information devices, Microsoft Corp has formed an alliance with UK incumbent British Telecommunications Plc to develop what it calls handheld interactive wireless devices and a multimedia service. The two companies pledged substantial but unspecified resources for the venture which they claim will build a new generation of mobile handsets and computing devices which will exploit fully the power of BT’s mobile networks to deliver multimedia content and interactive games.
BT denied that the announcement of the alliance was a response to news that 3Com’s Palm Computing and Symbian are discussing cross- licensing their respective operating systems in a move to dominate the emerging wireless internet market.
But with the major players in mobile phone manufacturing lined up in the Symbian consortium and Palm’s dominance of the handheld market, CE is in danger of being sidelined in a vast new sector. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates claims that mobility is a key element in the company’s vision while BT chief executive Sir Peter Bonfield saw mobile access to the internet as a fantastic growth market. The announcement follows last week’s news that the two companies are trialing a wireless internet portal based on Microsoft Exchange with 1,000 BT users who will be able to access facilities such as email, calendars, address books, and other information services, via a mobile phone.
Behind the scenes work by BT and Microsoft has clearly been going on for some time, because the first devices are due to appear next year. Neither Microsoft nor BT will make the devices themselves, but they will draw up the specifications, and the one certain element is that they will be based on the CE operating system. Devices for the trials have been manufactured by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Sagem SA, using the OS-independent microbrowser Microsoft acquired with STNC Ltd in July.
The alliance will cover existing mobile networks through to the third generation architectures emerging in 2001-2002. In addition, the two companies plan to set up an open forum for the creation of 3G and GPRS mobile applications.
For BT, the alliance offers hardware royalties and additional revenues from the services it can sell to its mobile customers. The company claims no conflict as a mobile services provider by offering its own hardware in competition with more experienced suppliers such as Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola, insisting that it is just encouraging development of the market.
Microsoft’s move into this area indicates considerable anxiety that it is being ignored in the move to a post-PC era. It follows reports last month that it is considering an entry into the $15bn games console market. á