Microsoft Annoints Vindigo in Alliance

By Erin Joyce

Weeks after releasing its latest paid city guide application for PDA devices, Vindigo now has the world’s largest software company promoting its product for Pocket PCs.

In an alliance that could spark a new round of acquisition chatter about Vindigo, Microsoft has asked the New York-based start-up to join its Mobility Partner Advisory Council. The council promotes mobility products and innovation.

The alliance means both companies are now working together to promote Vindigo 2.0 to Windows Powered Pocket PC users.

Perhaps more important, the alliance also means Microsoft will be touting the Vindigo application at a time when Vindigo is looking to sign up more users for its paid city guide services.

Vindigo boasts over a half million subscribers to its database of city guide listings for wireless devices such as cell phones, Pocket PCs and PDAs. Whether it can continue converting its base of subscribers to more paid services was one of the questions facing the start-up and its backers.

With Microsoft officially promoting the company’s paid database guides, Vindigo could be sitting pretty for lining up another round of financing, this time from strategic investors, according to Fred Wilson of Flatiron Partners, one of Vindigo’s venture backers.

“Vindigo is thrilled to embark on this strategic relationship with Microsoft,” said Jason Devitt, chief executive officer of Vindigo. “By working together, we will be able to introduce Pocket PC users to the benefits of the Vindigo 2.0 service.”

Vindigo also said it would work with Microsoft to optimize its service for wireless Pocket PC devices and Microsoft Windows Powered Smartphones.

Until last fall, Vindigo’s popular application was exclusively available on the Palm OS in a deal with Palm Inc. to pre-load and box the software on the Palm m100 and m500 handhelds.

Then Vindigo announced it would also release a version for Microsoft’s PocketPC 2002 operating system. Based on the success of the $19.95 annual fee it charged for its city guide software for the Pocket PC platform, Vindigo launched a subscription-based version for the Palm devices for $24.95 a year, featuring beefed-up restaurant, music and museum listings.

The paid service also features listings for more cities including Brooklyn, Orlando, Pasadena and San Jose, a wider selection of content and location features for finding bank ATMs and gas stations.

As it relased its 2.0 version for PDAs, Vindigo also began offering its city guide listing service in Qualcomm’s Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW) development platform.

The BREW version of Vindigo has all the core features such as information on restaurants and museums, and features greater mapping abilities such as driving directions. Wireless experts say the BREW platform features billing capabilities that are more advanced than the more popular J2ME platform.

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