Sit down and brace yourself... It's a positive Microsoft story!Microsoft has launched an initiative to make it easier for other software companies to develop and sell applications for its smart phones and PDAs. The Mobile2Market project is basically a certification scheme. Independent software vendors, from massive corporations such as Siebel Systems to garage software outfits, can get their applications certified as compatible with Microsoft's mobile and handheld platforms. They will then receive a logo testifying to their worthiness, similar to the compatibility logos on PC software. The process will be managed by Veritas, which runs Microsoft's other certification programs. It costs $600 per application. Microsoft believes such software will one day ship with certification from carriers and device manufacturers as well as its own. Ed Suwanjindar, product manager at Microsoft, said: "However, those will mainly be required for applications that use the wireless connectivity of mobile devices. For most of the applications that ship today, the wireless connectivity will be enough." Orange also announced it will be supporting the Mobile2Market initiative, though the company will be focusing on driving downloads of applications which will boost airtime usage, rather than seeking substantial revenues from selling software licences, a spokesman said. Microsoft has announced a partnership with software market Handango to host applications and bill for content downloading, though it hopes to sign up other software marketplaces in due course. The company has not yet enabled over-the-air billing, but hopes to do so in due course. The move coincides with major initiatives from Vodafone and Orange to improve the supply development products to third-party software providers. Vodafone's initiative, Via Vodafone, is only four weeks old but it will eventually provide a forum for smaller software players to build applications that plug into Vodafone's network. The company aims to provide easy interfaces for various parts of its network, to enable third party content providers to build applications using Vodafone's SMS services, location sensing systems and billing platforms. Vodafone has shown interest in incorporating Mobile2Market into the Via Vodafone system, Suwanjindar said, though a formal announcement has not yet been made. The announcements were made at Microsoft's first ever Mobility Developers Conference in London.