Microsoft, Ericsson partner on wireless

In an plan likely to help flesh out Telecom New Zealand's mobile data plans, Microsoft and Ericsson are to form a joint company to market and deliver mobile e-mail products to network operators.

Microsoft has announced two alliances with wireless leader Ericsson, including plans for a joint company that will market and deliver mobile e-mail products to network operators.

The move is likely to mesh with Telecom New Zealand's plans to develop mobile data services as part of its alliance with Microsoft.

The two companies also announced a strategic partnership to develop and market wireless Internet-based systems using any device. In that partnership, Ericsson will provide its Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) software to Microsoft, and Ericsson will adopt a new Microsoft wireless browser, to be called Mobile Explorer, for use in some Internet-enabled smart phones.

Ericsson will own the majority of the joint company, which will focus on building and deploying e-mail products using Microsoft Windows NT Server and Exchange and Ericsson Internet technology.

Wireless industry analyst Alan Reiter at Wireless Internet and Mobile Computing, viewed the announcements as “one more piece in the puzzle” of how the wireless Internet world will develop.

Reiter says the news underscores the difficulty Microsoft has had in bringing wireless Internet to the corporate world through Wireless Knowledge, a Microsoft partnership announced a year ago with Qualcomm in San Diego.

Some executives have left Wireless Knowledge, but Microsoft obviously sees the importance of wireless in its future and resorted to working with a leader like Ericsson, Reiter said.

Stockholm-based and Nokia in Finland are the leaders in developing hardware and software for wireless Internet access, with Motorola Inc. in Schaumburg, Illinois, close behind, he said.

“This is one more way for Microsoft to get into a competitive market,” Reiter said. In addition to developing WAP, Ericsson and Microsoft also plan to work on the development of Bluetooth, a short-distance wireless technology for connecting mobile phones to laptops or laptops to printers, for example.

Analyst David Hayden at Mobile Insights says Microsoft’s pledge to the WAP standard is key to the announcement.

Given the slow start with Wireless Knowledge, Microsoft has needed to partner with a large handset manufacturer to be able to “really get into a dogfight” with competitors, such as Phone.com Inc. in Redwood City, California. Phone.com is selling WAP servers to network providers and WAP browsers to handset manufacturers, and it’s involved with new Internet-enabled phones being sold by Sprint in Kansas City, Missouri, Hayden said.

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