FRAMINGHAM (04/19/2000) - Microsoft Corp. has positioned its PocketPC, introduced today, as just one piece of a mobile computing strategy that will permeate all of its products and services.
Robert O'Hara, the company's wireless architect, said the "mobility of software services" stands at the core of the company's future plans and strategy.
O'Hara, who spoke at Gartner Group Inc.'s Itxpo2000 last week in San Diego, said, "Everywhere in our product line, you will see mobility and wireless come into play."
O'Hara added that Microsoft wants to make it as easy for mobile workers to access data on the road as at home, with products that are easy to use. That, he said, amounts to a major challenge, "since we are still struggling to make PCs easy to use."
Microsoft is developing products and services for multiple hardware devices besides the PocketPC, including cellular phones, said O'Hara, "because one size does not fit all." In the future, mobile computing devices could appear as car accessories, O'Hara said, pointing out that Volkswagen AG has already installed an earlier version of the Windows CE operating system - which powers the PocketPC - in its car radios.
Doug Dedo, Microsoft's group product manager for mobile devices, said the PocketPC is part of a "much bigger and larger (corporate) strategy" that includes not only stand-alone mobile devices, but also embedded systems running under the new version of Windows CE. In the future, Dedo predicted, the milk containers that consumers will store in "smart" Windows CE-powered refrigerators will be at the end of a "food chain" that will also include milk analyzers at the dairy farm running under Windows CE.
Pat Fox, Microsoft's director of U.S. server applications marketing, said the company's mobile computing strategy "goes well beyond specific devices. ...
We're looking at adding significant mobile capability to Windows." Under the company's "anytime, anywhere" mobile computing strategy, Microsoft wants to provide large corporate users with the ability to extend Excel and SQL Server applications directly to the mobile workforce.
"We want to provide a full line of business applications" to users, said Fox.
Ken Dulaney, vice president of mobile at Gartner, said that despite this focus by Microsoft, he views the PocketPC - particularly with its built-in capabilities to play MP3 audio files and to let users download Solitaire and Minesweeper from a Microsoft Web site - as an "entertainment device." Still, it's an entertainment device corporations will have to support, since a large pool of users will want the ability to access enterprise systems remotely, Dulaney added.
Ted Clark, vice president of the iAppliances division at Compaq Computer Corp.
- one of the four companies introducing PocketPC hardware today - agreed that some CIOs may perceive the PocketPC as an entertainment device. However, he added that "there is a convergence of personal and professional needs (in the PocketPC), and that's why we have designed our product with an expansion pack to add capabilities that many companies will want, including wireless connectivity."