Microsoft forms mobility advisory council

Responding to what it calls a "rapidly growing ecosystem" around its mobility software, Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday launched an invitation-only arm of its Mobility Solutions Partner Program (MSPP).

Called the Mobility Partner Advisory Council (MPAC), the new organization was created for companies to provide feedback on product development and as a support network for companies making "significant investments" in the mobility space, Microsoft said. The MPAC is made up of about 110 companies, including giants such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Compaq Computer Corp. as well as smaller players such as Synchrologic Inc. and Ameranth Wireless, said Mary Rose Becker, a group marketing manager with Microsoft.

The first companies invited to join were those that Microsoft already has a "good working relationship" with, Becker said. "We've had great support and joint marketing in the past, and those are great points of reference to predict future behavior."

Microsoft will hold its first Mobility Developers Conference in April, where it will discuss the details of the new program with the invited members, Becker said. The first council meeting will be free, but companies that decide to attend more meetings will be charged a US$15,000 fee, Becker said. "We haven't determined if it will be reviewed annually or what the financial fee will be," Becker said. "We'll take a look in six months."

That $15,000 will buy the companies perks that include joint marketing, public relations and sales support and dedicated technical support from Microsoft Consulting Services, she said.

"There is mutual accountability and benefit for both parties," Becker said. "You'll be able to directly talk to the person responsible."

Microsoft uses some of the partners in areas that it can't cover itself, Becker said. For example, Synchrologic, which makes software used to synchronize mobile devices with information stored on servers, fills in the gaps for Microsoft in that area, Becker said.

"They have helped fill some of the void in the synching area," she said.

The formation of the council shows Microsoft's focus on mobility to its partners, said John Dancu, president and chief executive officer of Synchrologic. "It gives us one main contact at Microsoft," Dancu said.

Microsoft has helped the company with market planning and sales calls in the past, he said.

Companies in the program will have a quarterly review with Microsoft, where the two parties will decide on continuing membership in the MPAC, Becker said.

The MSPP, which itself is an offshoot of Microsoft's Certified Partner Program, currently has more than 5,000 members and is growing by more than 200 members a month, Microsoft said.

Microsoft's mobility products include the Pocket PC and Handheld PC platforms, Windows Powered Smartphone 2002, and Mobile Information Server.

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