The collaboration between Microsoft and Vodafone offers a glimpse of the future in the business technology sector

Smartphone boom ahead after 3GSM

THE WORLDS of the PC and mobile phone collided at the 3GSM mobile telephony trade show in Barcelona. The world’s largest mobile operator has joined forces with the world’s largest operating system company to offer direct push email on mobile phones, a move which sent ripples throughout the technology world.

Vodafone and Microsoft announced the European launch of Windows Mobile Email, based on Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 and incorporating the Messaging and Security Feature Pack (MSFP), which includes Direct Push technology. Push email gets forwarded to a device as it comes in on the server – as opposed to pull email, in which a user has to manually retrieve email or get it at a certain time.

Until now, this technology has been mainly associated with Blackberry devices from Canadian outfit RIM. This move will add to the pressure already on RIM from the challenge to its intellectual property patents from US company NTP and possibly change the face of mobile computing.

From this month, Vodafone will deploy a range of Windows Mobile 5.0-powered devices with Direct Push Technology to corporate and small and medium-sized business (SMB) customers in France, Germany and the UK. The service will also be available to corporate and SMB customers in other countries during 2006.

This news is the strongest indication yet that the smart phone is set to become the ubiquitous device of the future, and that Microsoft intends to dominate its operation in the same way it has PCs. The current market leader in smart phone operating systems is specialist outfit Symbian, but Microsoft’s marketing power in combination with Vodafone’s leadership of the mobile phone operator market could change that very quickly.

Stuart O’Brien, editor of PC Retail’s sister title Mobile Entertainment magazine, said: “Though its DRM and Media Player solutions have made mobile inroads, Microsoft has struggled to establish its Windows Mobile OS. The addition of Vodafone to a customer roster that already includes Orange could well kick-start a challenge to market leader Symbian.”

As push email requires a constant connection to the network, growth in demand for it is likely to sideline devices such as PDAs, which don’t have this capability. 2006 could well be the year of the smartphone.

Microsoft further strengthened its commitment to the mobile platform with the announcement of its acquisition of MotionBridge, a mobile search company and the confirmation of a partnership with Motorola to integrate Windows Media technology, including DRM, on to some handsets.

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