Europe leads Microsoft push to mobilise business apps

IT Forum: Microsoft wants to get businesses using mobile devices, with a raft of partners, and Europe could take the lead

Microsoft launched its Mobile Workplace programme in Europe at its IT Forum conference for IT managers in Copenhagen on Thursday. The company expects the European arm of this programme to get started quicker than the US part -- it already has ten partners, compared to three worldwide partners. The programme was first announced by Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer in July.

"Europe will take off fastest" said Peter Wissinger, marketing manager for Microsoft's mobile devices division. "There is a different ecosystem here. Europe is in many ways at the forefront of adoption."

The programme is intended to encourage businesses to take the plunge, something they might be reluctant to do given the uncertainty around wireless services and the fact that the platforms are all still new and untried.

Mobile data services for consumers are stalled at the moment, since only a tiny fraction of users can be bothered. "Out of 35,000 people with GPRS handsets, only about 200 have signed up for data services," said Wissinger. This creates a chicken and egg problem.

In businesses on the other hand, IT managers control a large workforce, and can roll out applications. The Mobility Workplace programme aims to convince them that this is practical, by showing infrastructure for security and management is there, and do a good sales jobs on vertical applications for sales forces and the like.

"The building blocks are in place," said Wissinger. "There are rich devices in the market, it makes sense for corporate applications. I strongly think the infrastructure is there, but the packaged approach has not been there before."

The programme will aim to paper over the patchy roll-out of mobile data networks, treating Wi-Fi, GPRS and 3G as options. "One programme covers the lot, we are not 3G dependent in any way," said Wissinger.

The programme is is a joint investment, said Wissinger: "We have put in big money, which has been matched by the partners." The European partners include Computacenter and Fujitsu Services in the UK, Winlinx in Germany, ExpandIT in Denmark, WM Data in Sweden, and BizzDev and Econocom in France. These are on top of the three world partners, HP, Accenture and Cap Gemini Ernst & Young.


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