Microsoft aims Stinger at telcos

Telecommunication carriers are facing a brand recognition problem, says Microsoft, and it thinks it can help them.

Telecommunication carriers are facing a brand recognition problem, says Microsoft and it thinks it can help them.

The company's Sydney-based mobility and wireless products manager, Harvey Sanchez, says telcos deliver services to equipment that bears other companies' brand names -- Nokia, Ericsson or Alcatel cellphones, for example. While the equipment makers get the brand loyalty, the telcos get stuck with the problems of dealing with customers.

Microsoft is offering a palliative in the form of its new operating system, code-named Stinger.

“Most carriers around the world face a 40% to 50% churn factor among customers. Once they’ve bought a phone and their contract has expired, they look to other telcos to see what they offer. There’s very little loyalty in this segment.” Sanchez says by using Stinger carriers will be offering services and applications that a customer will want, thus making them “stickier” when their contracts need renewing.

Sanchez notes that New Zealand is a little different to most markets because Telecom and Vodafone use different infrastructures and so a user cannot switch between the two with the same handset. And Stinger only works with GSM and GPRS phones, but Microsoft is working on CDMA - the system to which Telecom is moving.

Stinger is in early trials with four telcos around the world and Sanchez hopes to see it in Australasia by the end of the year. Stinger is based on Windows CE, Microsoft’s cut-down operating system and application set designed for smaller devices, like Compaq’s iPaq. Stinger introduces a layer between the phone and the application that runs on XML, meaning developers could write once and it would deploy across different browsers.

“At the moment if you design an application for a phone you have to take into account the different browsers each phone uses. So you’ll need to customise it for Ericsson, for Nokia and so on.

“If the carriers don’t move quickly to brand themselves with the customer they stand to lose out in the services market.” Sanchez says the carriers are the ones that have paid billions for third generation spectrum and unless they can make customers stick to their networks they stand to lose a lot of money.

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