Microsoft, Vodafone team on Outlook mobile services

Microsoft Corp. and Vodafone Group PLC announced Monday the launch of a new service delivering real-time e-mail, SMS (short message service) and voice communication to corporate customers via the Outlook platform, powered by the Microsoft Mobile Information 2001 Server.

Company officials declined to say how much money they will invest in the project, to be known as Vodafone OfficeLive, but said at a joint news conference here that it marked the beginning of a long-term relationship between the two companies.

"We are extending the power of the desktop to the mobile," said Amit Tau, managing director of Vodafone U.K. Multimedia. "Based on the success in the U.K., the service will be rolled out all over the world."

The companies estimated that the service will cost subscribers 5 pounds (US$7) per month, per user. Corporate customers already signed up include Barclays Bank PLC, Hewlett-Packard Co., ICL Ltd., KPMG Consulting Inc., and NTL Group Ltd., they said.

Barclays deployed the service Monday, said Tau, adding, "This service already works incredibly well over GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) today, and will work with 3G (third generation). It is future-proof."

"Microsoft is currently investing a lot in mobility, the same way we did in the Internet a couple of years ago," said Jonas Persson, a commercial director with the software company. "Hopefully innovation will take place between Vodafone and Microsoft, and we need to make sure that developers have a platform to work on. Microsoft and Vodafone are building a platform together to attract all of these (independent) developers."

Persson said Microsoft sees the project as a way to add mobility to the company's .Net Web services initiative.

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