Microsoft has launched its long-awaited Smartphone operating system for cell phones, and secured immediate practical backing from European operator Orange SA.
Smartphone brings an array of features for multimedia, web and collaborative activities found in Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft’s other Windows operating systems to personal communication devices.
Orange leads a list of operators including AT&T Wireless, Cingular Wireless, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone Group by announcing immediate plans for Smartphone-based services. Orange, owned by France Telecom SA, said it will launch Sound, Pictures, Video (SPV) next Monday in the UK.
Jean-Francois Pontal, Orange chief executive officer, said Smartphone would help his company drive towards its target of 25% of total revenue derived from data-based services by 2005.
Pontal said in a statement that Smartphone would achieve this because SPV delivers a suite of services such as photo messaging and video streaming ahead of third-generation networks. ATT Wireless has said it will deliver Smartphone-based handsets to market by mid-2003.
Smartphone enters the market as Microsoft’s latest attempt to get Windows onto a wider variety of computing devices, which has seen the PocketPC and Windows CE mobile platforms evolve with new features against Palm, Research In Motion and Symbian.
While PocketPC has been well received in certain areas, notably on Compaq Computer Inc’s iPAQ devices, 2002 has been a difficult year for all vendors. Smartphone’s future remains uncertain – although not bleak, as the operating system will benefit from Microsoft’s willingness to back a new product, taking a loss, to seed the market.
Possibly Smartphone’s biggest single difficulty, though, is handsets. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, the third largest handset vendor in the world, is backing Smartphone with Compal Electronics Inc and HTC Corp. Lacking, though, is support from the world’s biggest handset manufacturer, Nokia Corp, which remains steadfastly in the Java camp.
Microsoft is appealing to vendors and consumers with features familiar from Windows. Smartphone includes MSN Messenger and Outlook-based e-mail, calendar, contacts and tasks. Standard cell phone features include different ring tones, home screens and internet access, with support for multimedia and video games.