Microsoft joins GSM Association

In a bid to boost its smart card business Microsoft Corp. announced Monday it has joined the GSM Association, a representative body of mobile telephone network operators.

The Redmond, Washington-based software giant hopes its membership in the association will spur its SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) smart card business. The SIM cards are used in handsets on GSM (Global System for Mobile telecommunications) networks to identify a user and store information like a personal address book. The announcement was made a day before the kick off of the GSM World Congress Cannes, France, a large mobile phone trade show.

Microsoft calls its cards "Windows Powered." The SIM cards will assist operators in providing mobile commerce applications based on the Windows platform as well as applications based on Windows, Microsoft said. The cards support popular standards and can be programmed using Microsoft Visual Basic and the C programming language, the company said.

"Microsoft is gaining access to people and knowledge," said Mark Smith, spokesman for the GSM Association, which represents more than 514 GSM network operators from 162 countries. "They get to network with the members, access to all documentation behind GSM and are welcome to participate in technical interest groups."

Many traditional IT players are joining the GSM Association, Smith said. Later this week the body will announce that Psion PLC., the British handheld computer maker, has joined. Recently, other IT giants, including Cisco Systems Inc., Compaq Computer Corp. and IBM Corp., joined the GSM Association, Smith said.

Rob Conway, chief executive of the GSM Association, said in a statement that Microsoft's membership would contribute to the association's efforts to "expand the functionality of SIM cards and mobile communications."

The GSM Association in London can be reached at +44-207-518-0530 or on the Web at http://www.gsm.org/. Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080 or at http://www.microsoft.com/.

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