Ballmer: Microsoft wants a piece of your phone

Microsoft's scheme to put an abbreviated version of the Internet in users' pockets took more shape as Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's president and chief executive officer, announced new plans under the "Microsoft in Mobility" banner Tuesday. Ballmer used the keynote at the CTIA Wireless 2001 conference to announce new Microsoft products and discuss how they would interact with the company's .NET initiative, which will use XML (Extensible Markup Language) to share information between devices.

One way Microsoft hopes to drive innovation is to pick two areas in which it is already a leader. The Motorola /MSN T900 pager, which will be released toward the end of this year, will put Microsoft's instant messaging service, and its Web-based e-mail service, on a pager-sized device. Instant messaging and e-mail are two markets in which Microsoft has the highest percentage of users in the world, although not in the US, Ballmer said.

Ballmer also said that Hewlett-Packard will announce this week that it will launch a new version of it's Journada handheld PC. The Journada 525, which runs Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system, will retail for US$359, Ballmer said.

Ballmer also discussed some of the company's other plans for the mobile market, including the Tablet PC, which will launch about a year from now and run Windows XP, and the operating system for smart phones -- codenamed Stinger -- which, like the Pocket PC devices, is based on the Windows CE operating system, he said.

"The phones that people have today are not the phones that people will want to use in the XML generation," Ballmer said. Devices running Microsoft's different operating systems would all be able to exchange information in the future, using XML and Microsoft's Mobile Information Server 2001, which will ship later this year. Mobile Information Server is used to distribute information to any device in the format best suited to that device, be it a handheld, smart phone, or full-fledged PC.

The move is an attempt by Microsoft to set a standard that can be adopted by all devices, Ballmer said. "Eventually, the Internet will be accessed by PC, television and wireless devices."

Ballmer also announced a partnership with High Tech Computer (HTC), the Taiwanese company that designs and manufactures Compaq Computer's iPaq, and a broadening of its relationship with Mitsubishi Wireless Communications Both companies have agreed to use Microsoft software in future mobile phones.

The Redmond, Washington software giant is just one of the companies trying to secure a place for its software in what is expected to be a huge market for so-called smart phones, or mobile phones that can double as personal organizers, send and receive e-mail and do basic Web surfing. Other contenders include Sun Microsystems, Palm and Symbian.

Ballmer confirmed that HTC has agreed to use Stinger in handsets that HTC plans to release later this year, Microsoft said. HTC doesn't sell to end users, but delivers phones through mobile operators and other handset suppliers.

Mitsubishi will use Microsoft's Mobile Internet Explorer, a sort of mini Web browser, in two of its phones being designed for GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) networks in the US, Ballmer said. The phones, the Trium G520 and GT550, are due in the first quarter of 2002.

Mitsubishi is already a partner of Microsoft, offering a Pocket PC handheld computer in Europe dubbed the Mondo Trium, which mixes voice and data functions. The company has also said it will ship smart phones based on Stinger in Europe later this year.

Boosting its efforts to attract enterprise customers to the Pocket PC, Ballmer highlighted a deal in which J.D. Edwards & Co. will make Pocket PC the exclusive PDA platform it supports for information systems based on OneWorld, its ERP (enterprise resource planning) package.

CTIA is organized by the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association.

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