Microsoft mobilizes China push with new ally

The software giant seals agreement with local mobile device designer TechFaith, to fuel its growth appetite in the world's largest cellphone market.
Written by Aaron Tan, Contributor

Microsoft has partnered mobile device and application developer TechFaith to raise Windows Mobile's slice of the world's largest cellphone market.

Jason Lim, regional director of Microsoft's mobile and embedded devices division in Asia Pacific and Japan, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview: "We started working with TechFaith earlier this year when they began designing devices running on Windows Mobile 5.0."

Both parties signed an agreement in early May to cement their collaboration, marking the start of efforts to jointly develop and market mobile devices.

Lim said the first Windows Mobile device designed by TechFaith will be introduced to the China market in the coming months. He declined to reveal pricing details of the new device, or the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) that would be producing it.

Without touching on the specifics of the agreement, Lim said Microsoft and TechFaith will "accelerate the development of TechFaith's Windows Mobile and Windows Media products and services in China, as well as markets around the globe."

"As we do with many of our device partners, we have teams working closely together to share information and technology, to bring the new devices to market," he added.

China is currently the world's biggest cellphone market. As of last September, the country had 377 million cellphone users, according to figures released by the Chinese government. China Mobile is also the world's largest mobile operator with more than 240 million subscribers.

According to global market figures from research company IDC, released last month, the Symbian operating system runs on about 54 percent of smart phones worldwide. This is followed by Linux with about 23.5 percent, and Windows Mobile with 13 percent. PalmOS has a 3.5 percent market share, according to IDC.

Microsoft does not break down its market share geographically, but Lim noted that the company's global market share is growing due to the rising uptake of Microsoft Exchange Server 2003.

Last October, the software giant released a long-awaited service pack for Exchange Server 2003 that allows enterprises to offer push e-mail services to employees equipped with Windows Mobile 5.0 devices.

Lim said: "There is a huge business opportunity of push e-mail and this will simultaneously drive the growth of the Windows Mobile business. Microsoft anticipates a 100 percent growth globally in 2006."

While the software vendor is not announcing similar partnerships in other emerging Asian markets such as India, at this point, Lim said Microsoft is "constantly engaging new partners to help bring innovative applications, as well as expand an ever-growing portfolio of Windows Mobile devices".

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