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Microsoft to bolster mobile strategy

10 февраля 2009

Microsoft Corp. is planning a series of new programs and services for mobile phones, responding to stiff competition from Apple Inc. and other rivals.

The offerings will include an online bazaar for distributing software to cellular phones that run Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system, people familiar with the matter say. Such services have become an important complement to advanced cellphones since Apple introduced its iPhone App Store last year.

In coming weeks, the Redmond, Wash., company also will offer a new version of the operating system, called Windows Mobile 6.5, that provides a more-sophisticated interface and could further narrow the gap with the iPhone, these people say.

Microsoft needs to energize its mobile strategy as advanced cellphones that access the Internet, called smartphones, take on many chores associated with computers and swallow a bigger share of the overall cellphone business.
Although it was one of the earliest computer-industry entrants in the smartphone business, Microsoft is widely perceived to have lost technological ground to Apple's iPhone and Google Inc.'s Android software, both of which are particularly good for chores such as calling up Web sites.

Even Palm Inc., a smartphone pioneer that stumbled badly in recent years, is grabbing attention with new mobile software and a device called Pre, due out later this year. Microsoft's share of the smartphone business increased to 13.3% last year from 11% the prior year, but Apple tripled its share during the same period, rising to 9% from 3%, according to research firm IDC.

One factor is that Microsoft focused largely on business functions such as easy access to corporate email systems, though smartphones stopped being seen by many users as purely work devices. Company executives have said they plan to place a much greater emphasis on multimedia and other functions of interest to consumers, such as photos and music."You're about to see a watershed," Andy Lees, a Microsoft executive who took charge of the company's mobile business about a year ago, said in a recent interview.

Microsoft is expected to discuss the new offerings on Feb. 16 at a mobile-industry conference in
Barcelona, Spain, where Chief Executive Steve Ballmer is to deliver a keynote speech.

One new service the company is already talking about, called My Phone, wirelessly synchronizes data stored on Windows Mobile smartphones, including contacts, calendar appointments, photos and text messages, to a Web site.
The service is designed to make it easier for users to back up their information in case their phone is lost or stolen. My Phone will compete with a similar service from Apple called MobileMe, though it currently lacks a MobileMe feature that synchronizes data from users' cellphones to applications running on their computers.

Microsoft, though, will offer My Phone for free, while Apple charges $99 a year for MobileMe."We think we're providing a true mass-market consumer offering," says Todd Brix, senior director of mobile services at Microsoft.

Microsoft's Windows Mobile is already a target for other programmers, who have generated thousands of applications for the operating system.
But they aren't all stored in a single online marketplace that is as easily accessible as Apple's iPhone App Store, which has been a big hit with consumers.

"People who are going to succeed in the OS wars are the ones that are going to draw the most attraction from developers," says Ryan Reith, an IDC analyst.

Google, too, hosts an application store, dubbed the Android Market, for phones running its Android mobile operating system, the first of which is the G1 from Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile
USA. This week Google will start allowing developers to charge for software sold through the Android Market, according to people familiar with the matter.

Источник: Total Telecom

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