Microsoft to mobile phone group: You need us

Can an attempt to standardise the basic features of a mobile phone work without involving the behemoth of the desktop PC market? Microsoft thinks not

Software giant Microsoft has insisted that any attempt to standardise future mobile phones will need to involve the whole PC industry, including itself.

On Monday Nokia announced that a group of manufacturers and network operators were forming an alliance to ensure that future mobile phones will all include certain functionality -- such as support for Java, and the ability to send, receive and display images and video clips. Nokia will work with NTT DoCoMo to develop multimedia messaging technologies with the goal of reaching an integrated messaging service. The initiative also includes Vodafone, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and Siemens.

Reacting to the announcement, Microsoft said it doesn't consider the alliance a threat. "We support any move to boost open standards, and we certainly don't see this initiative as a particular threat to us," said Robbie Wright, Microsoft European mobility marketing manager. But Wright indicated that the alliance might have trouble realising its vision without Microsoft's support.

"But where are the Internet players, not to mention the PC industry?" Wright asked. "The vision of the mobile future means that consumers and business people will be able to access information and services whenever they want, from wherever they are." For enterprise users, this means access to software such as Microsoft Exchange, which is why the alliance needs the involvement of software companies, said Wright.

Nokia's chief executive Jorma Ollila, who announced the "Open Mobile Architecture Initiative" at Comdex on Monday, told reporters that Microsoft, AOL Time Warner and Palm would all be welcome to join, even though none had been invited to the party.

Some reports have suggested that the alliance could make it much harder for Microsoft to be such an important player in the IT sector in the future. As the desktop PC is superceded by smart phones and increasingly powerful PDAs, Microsoft's dominance could slip.

With initiatives such as .Net and the Stinger smart phone platform, Microsoft has already directed its attention to the Internet and the wireless sectors. "This initiative doesn't affect the .Net vision at all, as it will be able to support whatever operating systems a mobile device runs," explained Wright.

Under .Net, Microsoft is planning to offer its software as Web-based services, rather than just as workstation or server-based applications.

See the Mobile Technology News Section for full coverage.

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