CeBIT, Microsoft’s coming out party?


After fumbling its way, Microsoft is all set to launch an all out offensive on the wireless business. CeBIT was its coming out party, and if the current momentum continues, then NOKIAN and Palm have a lot to be worried about.

CeBIT in Hanover, Germany turned out to be a coming out party for Microsoft’s Mobile division. Peter reports on three new phones – Mitac’s new Mio 8860, Samsung’s second Smartphone, the SGH-i250 and Sagem’s low-end model , the myS-7 – which are powered by Microsoft’s mobile phone operating system. I think this is a sign of things to come, and we could expect more Microsoft powered mobile phones this year. Nearly a dozen different ones, if the company sources are to be believed.

A couple of weeks ago I chatted with Ed Suwanjindar, Microsoft’s mobile headhoncho, and he fired a salvo against Palm and Symbian, the two competing and admittedly more successful smartphone platforms. “NOKIAN is great for voice phones and that’s something they excel at and Palm has a great software platform for PDAs. It was a good platform.” When asked about Symbian becoming NOKIAN, he quipped, “It does a bit of resetting of the playing field. I think it is concern for other companies which are licensing software from Symbian, Nokia will have a lot of control over that consortium. We are the switzerland of the mobile smart phone business. we still want to build software for phones. Its one thing for a company to be a software provider, and be a hardware provider. From our stand point that is a tough position to be in for them.”

“People are trying to apply legacy software to mobile phones and applying it to the mobile phone market,” he said, explaining that Microsoft had purpose built its software platfrom. I didn’t buy that – because if it looks like Windows, and it works like Windows, it has to be Windows. When I asked this question, Ed remarked, “There is part of that – it is similar to the windows XP desktop turn on experience. It has the Exchange/Outlook product integration.”

“One of the guiding principles of this software, one of the core questions was: does it make it a better phone? we did nothing to include program/features which came in the way of the phone functions, we cut them out,” he pointed out, and that made it better than the rivals. Sure, you must jest Ed, I added, for your software is slow, cumbersome and prone to crashes. Look at the crappy Motorola MPX-200 I have been using. It is clear your OS needs more horsepower than current handsets are offering.

“Performance is a combination of the software and optimization of the hardware and the performance of the network. Those things controls the total experience,” said Suwanjindar, and added, “It is good to see that other people who are going to face the same challenges. The experience is going to get better for as an industry we have entered the super growth phase of the smart phone market.”

Microsoft’s aggressive moves in the wireless world could spell doom for another company, Good Technology, which is quite cocky about its over the air synchronization abilities. The company is working on making ActiveSync, a more robust technology. “ActiveSync which is an software application which is of tremendous potential. Today it is a connection conduit for the PC-to-PDA/PPC and it is a pretty good experience,” Ed said. Microsoft is going to put lots of emphasis on Server ActiveSync which can do over the air synchronization of email, contacts, calendars. This technology is rudimentary and is integrated into the Microsoft Messaging platform called Exchange. “We believe that Exchange 2003 plus Windows Mobile 2003 offers the best over the air experience,” he added. And as a parting shot, he pointed out that Microsoft is in the wireless business for the long term. “We don’t see the wireless data market as a sprint but as a marathon.”

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