Microsoft wants all your mobile life

3GSM: In a packed keynote speech, Steve Ballmer said the terms 'business user' and 'consumer' are increasingly irrelevant in a mobile world that must concentrate on people

Microsoft's chief executive Steve Ballmer has claimed the division between business users and consumers is artificial, and vowed that his company is going to focus on developing software and services that appeal to "people" rather than market segments.

Delivering a keynote address on the second day of the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, Ballmer said that the mobile market is an increasingly vital one to Microsoft's future.

The key to developing useful software and services for mobile platforms, Ballmer explained, is embracing the fact that people often want to use devices or services to manage both their personal and business affairs.

"Everyone likes to differentiate between business and consumers but I don't see the difference really. Most people are people," Ballmer said. "I get personal and business mail and I have one set of contacts from my life. I don't want to manage two sets. I want one view of my world."

Ballmer added that Microsoft will increase its focus on all things mobile this year, with a slew of product announcements, partnerships and marketing campaigns. "This year we are really ramping up the energy with a new ad campaign around Windows Mobile. We are launching new versions of Outlook and Exchange and one of the top priorities of our sales force will be to drive Windows Mobile into the enterprise to allow things to flourish."

During the keynote, Ballmer announced some upcoming products including the mobile version of the Office Communicator product. Communicator is Microsoft's attempt to push instant messaging into the enterprises and will include features such integrated VoIP services later this year. The company claims to have already shipped around 10 million units of the desktop version of Communicator.

Ballmer gave a glimpse of the mobile version of the company's Office Live suite of Web hosting and business applications for small firms too. The mobile version of the software will include such features as unified contact management and email from a handset.

Microsoft is expected to launch a test version of Office Live on Wednesday.

As well as touting these new mobile projects, Ballmer claimed Microsoft has made real advances in the mobile arena with its current offerings, with over 100 operators supporting the 100 models of Windows mobile phones in more than 50 countries. He also claimed around 18,000 applications have been developed for Windows Mobile.

During his speech, Ballmer also made much of his company's ability to provide a consistent platform for handset makers, operators and customers alike. "One of the key properties of Windows Mobile and Windows is that it is a consistent platform and runs a consistent set of applications and devices. The cost of reengineering for every handset and operator gets to be prohibitive as the industry marches on," he said.

However, the Microsoft boss was quick to quash any suggestion that Microsoft is looking to force its entire product range onto mobile hardware makers and operators.

"We do recognise that the world is a heterogeneous place and it is important that we embrace that. I get asked, 'Do we have to take all of your stuff to take any of your stuff,' and the answer is no — we provide great extensibility. If you want to build your own services, you can license technology from us to build your own."

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