RealTime IT News

Motorola Smartphones Take Flight

As part of its quest to turn its mobile operating system software from an also-ran into a major player in the mobile market, Microsoft has added two cutting-edge Smartphones to its arsenal.

The offerings come in the form of the new MPx and MPx100 Smartphones unveiled by Motorola at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France.

The MPx is a clamshell-style flip-phone fitted with a 1.3-megapixel camera, with built-in support for WiFi and Bluetooth .

The MPx100 is a more traditional looking cell phone with the camera, but with WiFi support available as an add-in via an optional networking card.

Microsoft positioned the release of the two phones as evidence that its alliance with Motorola is gaining momentum. The alliance is becoming a pivotal ally in the success of Microsoft's Smartphone software platform.

For the first two years of its life, Smartphone had little traction and no market share to speak of relative to leader Symbian, the European-based operating system and software consortium formed by major mobile and cell phone companies in a bid to capture the mobile software market, and compete with Microsoft.

(Although Microsoft's separate Windows Mobile for Pocket PC platform has a significant share of the PDA market, its Smartphone OS is for mobile phones only.)

In 2002, Smartphone made a major move forward when Anglo-French mobile operator Orange SA offered a Smartphone handset. Smartphone has also enticed some handset vendors targeting the emerging mainland China market.

But until late last year, there were no Smartphones in the United States. Motorola, which according to IDC is the number two worldwide vendor of mobile phones with 14.1 percent of the market in 2003, has long been a Symbian supporter. At one time, Motorola owned 19 percent of Symbian; it has since sold that stake. Motorola also works with Java and embedded Linux.

So when Motorola signed on to Smartphone last September and released its first handset equipped with the software, the release was a huge boost for Microsoft. At about the same time, Samsung also unveiled a Smartphone in the United States.

Although Microsoft is emphasizing Motorola's embrace of Smartphone, Motorola itself appears intent on keeping a finger in each platform pie.

While talking up Smartphones in the consumer space, Motorola has begun pushing embedded Linux for enterprise users. In this regard, Motorola recently unveiled the A768 mobile phone in China. Motorola said the phone, which is powered by Linux supplied by embedded vendor MontaVista Software, is its first enterprise Linux phone and is targeted specifically at corporate users.

Motorola and MontaVista spokespersons were traveling and not immediately available for comment. Microsoft was not immediately available for comment also.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's other non-Smartphone competitors aren't standing still in the face of Smartphone's advance.

Nokia, which last year sold 179.3 million mobile phones to give it a market-leading 33.6 percent share, has moved to embrace software provider and Smartphone rival Symbian even more tightly.

Earlier this month, Nokia said it would spend nearly $200 million to up its ownership of Symbian to 63.3 percent. Symbian's other owners are Sony Ericsson, Panasonic, Siemens and Samsung. The latter is another phone-OS fence-straddler.

PalmSource is also trying to move forward in the intelligent phone arena. The company, which recently spun off from its PDA-producing twin PalmOne, has announced its intention to become the platform leader in smart phones. To that end, PalmSource recently launched a major marketing push aimed at signing up mobile operators.

Separately at 3GSM, Microsoft announced that Italian mobile operator TIM will begin offering Smartphones to its customers this summer, but the brand name of the offering has not been announced.

Microsoft also disclosed that it will collaborate with Fenestrae, an enterprise-class software solutions company, to provide end-to-end hosted messaging and mobility for telecommunications service providers.