Microsoft is plunging ahead with its attempts to penetrate the BlackBerry-dominated mobile market with Windows Mobile 6, the newest version of its mobile operating system that executives said will further its “telco 2.0” aspirations.
Announced Monday at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona by Pieter Knook, the company’s senior vice-president, mobile and embedded devices division, the mobile software platform has many business-friendly features, with a particular emphasis on setting up Wi-Fi and link it to voice-over-IP (VOIP). “This application is WiFi-enabled to relate to the customer in the voice arena,” said Knook.
The first Mobile 6-powered devices are expected to hit the market by the second quarter of the year. According to a Microsoft, Cingular Wireless/AT&T, Chungwa Telecom, Dopod International, HP, LG Electronics, Motorola, Palm, Samsung, SingTel, Sprint, Telefonica, Toshiba, Verizon Wireless, Vodafone, and Willcom all have Mobile 6-enabled phones on deck for shipping this year. An IDC study quoted in the press release said that Microsoft’s worldwide converged mobile device shipments grow 135.3 per cent in 2006.
IDC Canada mobile/personal computing and technology research analyst Eddie Chan said he is skeptical about such an optimistic roll-out date. He put it closer to the third or mostly likely the fourth quarter of 2007.
One of Mobile 6’s highlights is its VOIP capabilities: it simplifies getting a Mobile 6-enabled device VOIP-ready. HP used the Congress to announce its iPaq 500 series Voice Messenger smartphone, which will run on Windows Mobile 6 and is planned for a July 2007 rollout in Canada. “We all know that mobile space is where the growth is,” said HP Canada’s iPaq Product Marketing Manager Marwan Al-Najjar. He said that clients want a single device they can use in the office and out; its new smartphone has hands-free wireless email can run through voice control.
Another key feature of the WiFi-enabled phone is its VOIP capability, said Al-Najjar. “We went with Mobile 6 because it supports VOIP and the WiFi infrastructure,” he said. These kinds of features are helping drive Microsoft’s increased presence in the mobile space, according to Al-Najjar: “They’re definitely gaining momentum.”
On-the-go users will have a virtual office in their hand — the software allows them to use a mobile version of the Office suite, including Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Users can navigate documents and spreadsheets in their original format, and tables, images, and text shows up normally. To smooth the path between one’s PC and mobile device, Mobile 6 synchronizes with Windows Vista and Windows Mobile Device Center to simplify transferring Outlook content, pictures, and music.
A great emphasis was placed on e-mail, which, Chan said, was a smart move, as the majority of businesses still rank e-mail as their highest mobile priority. “HTML e-mail has always been a big issue,” said Chan. But Mobile 6 will offer up e-mails in their original HTML format, complete with live links, that can be accessed from any source, from corporate servers to Web-based accounts. While Microsoft has come “late to the game” when it comes to RIM’s specialty, said Chan, Mobile 6-enabled devices will include Direct Push Technology that offers users up-to-the-minute delivery of e-mails and synchronization of Outlook calendars, tasks, and contacts, courtesy of Microsoft Exchange Server. E-mail management is streamlined through the nine new one-click options.
Web 2.0 favourites are also on display in the new program — Windows Live for Windows Mobile gives the user Web-searching, blogging, e-mailing, and instant messaging in one package. “We want to offer a high fidelity experience on a mobile device,” said Knook.
In a time when the “connected experience” is key, Chan said, the range of “telco 2.0” options offered by Mobile 6 taps right into the zeitgeist. “(Microsoft’s mobile offerings) are fairly balanced, and as multimedia expands, they’ll be well-positioned in that respect.
“Security is of primary concern, especially when it comes to enterprise,” according to Chan. Microsoft has responded with enhanced security features, including the ability to remotely wipe a lost device (and continued support for these wipes, whether local or remote), and storage card encryption. This platform is also the first that is compatible with an organization’s PC-based information rights management technology, Microsoft said.
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