RealTime IT News

Microsoft Rivals Line Up for Mobile Software

RealNetworks and Ericsson Wednesday inked a deal to bundle Real's multimedia software into Ericsson's new generation of mobile phones.

The move is thought to combat Microsoft's growing place in the global cell phone market for multimedia software and devices that will play music, enable video and run a variety of other applications.

Several other announcements were made at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France that point to Microsoft's rivals aligning together against the software giant. Nokia Corp. said it is working with Oracle Corp. to co-develop mobile e-mail applications.

Separately, IBM Corp. said it is working with several mobile handset manufacturers, including Nokia and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, and Samsung Electronics Co. said it is investing in Symbian PLC to the tune of a 5 percent stake in the mobile software consortium, which is competing with Microsoft. Some Samsung phones already run Microsoft software, and the move to join Symbian may be step towards it diversifying its interests away from Microsoft.

The RealNetworks deal with Ericsson will combine Real's Helix audio and video broadcasting software with Ericsson's multimedia software products, which will work with a variety of different wireless service providers. Real's Helix will work with Ericsson's Content Delivery Solution and be able to stream audio and video content across both 2.5 and 3G networks in every major 3GPP-compliant format, including MPEG-4, in addition to RealAudio and RealVideo.

Nokia, Ericsson and other mobile phone manufacturers are not interested in seeing Microsoft dominate the mobile market, the way they have colonized the personal computer software market.

Nokia, at the conference in Cannes, France, said Tuesday it will deliver a new generation of mobile phones by July of 2003 in effort to bring products to market that compete with Microsoft.

Nokia said it has begun testing close to 10,000 3G handsets with Vodafone Group PLC and Orange, as well as equipment makers Ericsson and Nortel. Nokia is competing with the likes of NEC of Japan and Motorola to bring a new generation of 3G phones capable of delivering advanced services.

But while mobile handset makers are racing to deliver the most marketable 3G phones, there are questions when consumers in Europe, Asia and North America will actually arrive.

One of the driving forces for Nokia, Ericsson and other mobile handset vendors is the realization that Microsoft is now moving into the handset business. Microsoft's move into making phones and minature mobile computing devices is driving several wireless handset vendors together.

Nokia, for its part, believes alliances with IBM and Oracle will make it more competitive against Microsoft. Nokia says it expect to sell 10 million high-end mobile handsets, built on the advanced series 60 software this year.

Mobile handset manufacturers are in a difficult position, as it is still unclear exactly when wireless carriers will deploy 3G networks. Indications are it will be slower, than originally expected, but there are several companies with aggressive 3G strategies, including Japanese vendor NTT DoCoMo.