M&S signs Microsoft for smart phone trial

Mobile email not pants for execs

Mobile email not pants for execs

Marks and Spencer has chosen Microsoft as its partner in a pilot of wireless email to its executives.

The trial will initially see some 20 execs from across business functions at the retailer using devices running Microsoft's Windows Smartphone OS to access their Outlook accounts. They will also get a prototype retail dashboard from software firm Conchango.

Outlook will allow the on-the-move execs to check up on email, contacts and calendars while out of the office, while Conchango's Retail KPI dashboard will allow any remote workers to access sales, stock and order information.

The underwear and sandwiches giant examined both Palm products and BlackBerrys before settling on Microsoft as its smart phone software provider of choice. The trial will see the execs touting the Qtek 8010, running Microsoft Smartphone 2003.

Ovum analyst Elsa Lion said Microsoft's trial with the retailer may help bolster its profile in the retail sector to a degree.

"They've got a good market share with blue collar workers," Lion said. "But they haven't really got into the executive level. This is just a trial, not a big deployment."

Microsoft's snagging of the high street staple may also not be entirely disconnected from M&S' choice of partner.

"They must have chosen the developer and the developer said 'choose Microsoft'. The advantage is that Microsoft has typically always delivered updates and news and so on to developers early," Ovum's Lion added.

Gartner analyst Monica Basso said Microsoft was the most developer-friendly mobile OS. "With other platforms [like BlackBerry], if you want to try application development on them it gets very difficult," she said

According to researchers Canalys, smart phone shipments are growing apace. It found that during the second quarter of this year volumes grew 105 per cent year-on-year with over 12 million smart phones sold.