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Microsoft, Vodafone Strike Pact for Mobile Web Standards

Microsoft Corp. said it has struck a deal with Vodafone to work together on standards for the emerging market for mobile Web services.

The plan announced Monday in Geneva at the International Telecommunications Union's Telecom World 2003 conference is aimed at software developers who are working on a variety of different applications. At issue are the standards that are embedded in those applications, including messaging, location, authentication and billing details.

"Microsoft continues to play an active role in supporting open standards and interoperability in the telecommunications industry. This, combined with our push for unified developer tools and an open execution environment, will enable Web services to flourish," said Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates, speaking in Geneva.

While Microsoft is lining up partners for mobile Web service standards, it is also at odds with Symbian, a consortium also focused on next generation mobile Web services made up of several of the software giant's competitors.

There are already two other groups working on mobile Web service standards, including the Open Mobile Alliance and The Parlay Group.

The Parlay Group said it is an "open multi-vendor consortium formed to develop open technology-independent application programming interfaces (APIs) enabling: technology, Internet and eBusiness companies, independent software vendors (ISVs), software developers, network device vendors and providers, service bureaus, application service providers (ASPs), application suppliers, and large and small enterprises to develop applications and technology solutions that operate across multiple networking platform environments."

There are widespread concerns within the mobile handset and software industry that Microsoft will leverage their predominance in the PC desktop and laptop markets into the emerging market for mobile Web services on a new generation of wireless devices.

Vodafone has been a leading supporter of the Liberty Alliance, and the group actually competes directly with Microsoft's Passport system for providing common technology for identifying Web users. Sun Microsystems is a leading proponent of The Liberty Alliance along with close to 30 other IT vendors.

While XML is not tied to any one operating system or programming language, it appears Microsoft is keen to incorporate XML into its standards designs.

"The two companies also shared an outline of their vision to help create mobile Web services standards that would utilize existing standard Extensible Markup Language (XML)-based Web services architecture," Microsoft and Vodafone said in a joint statement.

Both Microsoft and Vodafone said they would provide more details about their plans for XML-based mobile Web service standards at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conferences planned for later this month in Los Angeles.

In Geneva, besides detailing its plans with Vodafone for mobile Web standards, Microsoft also said its Mobile Devices Division unveiled the latest phone in the Orange Signature device line, known as the SPV E200. The company said the device is "the world's first Windows Mobile-based Smartphone with integrated camera and Bluetooth."

Microsoft went onto detail its wireless provisioning services (WPS) technology which it calls "a standards-based and integrated platform that enables wireless Internet service providers to easily provision and manage their Wi-Fi hot spots. WPS also allows users of Windows XP to easily detect and connect to Wi-Fi hot spots via a seamless signup process, and it enables more secure Wi-Fi hot spot access without the need for browser-based deployment.

Microsoft also said it is working with Swisscom AG "to bring to market enterprise mobile data solutions that combine the power of Windows and the Microsoft .NET Platform with the convenience and reliability of wireless broadband services from Swisscom Eurospot and Swisscom Mobile."



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