Vodafone, Microsoft to link mobile, Web services

Both will jointly promote programming standards for software that could work easily on both mobile phones and PCs.
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Published on Oct 13, 2003 07:59 PM IST
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PTI | ByReuters, London

Vodafone Group Plc and Microsoft Corp said on Monday they would jointly promote programming standards for software that could work easily on both mobile phones and personal computers. The world's largest mobile phone group and the biggest software company aim to set industry standards for software developers by providing access to the messaging, location and billing technologies used by mobile networks.

This could eventually produce services that, for example, allow stranded motorists to use a mobile phone to find the best auto repair service via the Internet and then automatically provide their vehicle's location on the highway.

"You've got a cellphone, you've got a PC, and today they never meet," said Microsoft's platform strategy group general manager Charles Fitzgerald. "The opportunity is to bring these two things together."

Microsoft has made a major push in the mobile industry in recent years in an attempt to head off competitors such as Britain's Symbian in wireless software. The company wants to strengthen its role in handheld technology to match its dominance of desktop computers.

By teaming up with a dominant player like Vodafone, it hopes its mobile-to-Web services will become an industry standard.

"It's our firm intention to make this available to other network operators and other software providers," Fitzgerald said.

One analyst said the announcement from the two industry giants would be greeted with skepticism by other technology firms.

Neil Macehiter, research director with British research firm Ovum, said many would see it as an attempt to hijack existing initiatives to develop standards for linking mobile phones and PCs.

"Microsoft and Vodafone will undoubtedly exploit their position as originators of the framework to ensure they are the first to support it, which will only add to the concern," Macehiter said in a statement.

The two companies will outline their plans at the ITU Telecom World 2003 conference in Geneva.

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