Fireworks predicted over MS/Vodafone Web services deal

Industry observers predict that the rest of the mobile industry could see a partnership between Vodafone and Microsoft as an attempt to hijack existing work on mobile Web services

The alliance between Microsoft and Vodafone to push the development of mobile Web services is likely to cause ructions within the industry in the months ahead, analysts have predicted.

The two firms announced on Monday that they are joining forces to extend Web services standards to mobile devices. This move, they say, will make it easier for more developers of Web services on PCs to port their efforts to mobile devices.

Microsoft and Vodafone will initially work together to build on existing Web services architecture before sharing their progress with other companies. The industrywide process will begin with a workshop to be held next January.

But while they insist that the wider mobile community will be involved in the development of these new mobile Web services standards, others are less convinced -- pointing out that other industry groups are already working on these problems.

"In reality, this announcement will be greeted with scepticism. Many will see this as an attempt, motivated by self-interest, to hijack existing initiatives from the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) and The Parlay Group, both of which already have widespread industry support," warned Neil Macehiter, research director at analyst group Ovum.

"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. The opening salvos at the first industry workshops planned for January will not be for those of a sensitive disposition," Macehiter claimed, adding that a compromise would probably be reached eventually.

Web services are software applications available over a network -- usually the Internet -- that use a standardised Extensible Markup Language, or XML, messaging system and are not tied to any one operating system or programming language.

Microsoft and Vodafone suggested that one potential mobile Web service would be a product for a car rescue company. When a stranded motorist called for help, the system would trace his ID and location and use this information plus data drawn from back end systems to find the nearest and most suitable mechanic.

Silicon.com's Tony Hallet contributed to this story.

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