Microsoft Tries to Spark Telco 2.0

Microsoft  today announced a new contest in the
hopes of sparking development of new Web 2.0-type applications for the
telecom market.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software behemoth expects that the impetus from
this competition will blow fresh wind in the sails of its Connected Services
Framework (CSF).

CSF is essentially middleware that enables telecommunications service
providers like Nortel  and British Telecom to aggregate,
or mash up, different types of services. Microsoft began shipping CSF to
operators three years ago, but according to Andy Chu, group manager for
planning and strategy in the Microsoft communications group, its customers
have been slow on the uptake.

“When we sold it, the promise was great, but they still don’t know how to
embrace Web 2.0,” Chu told internetnews.com.

That’s where the contest comes in. Contestants are being asked to invent new
applications that combine traditional telecom services with Web 2.0
applications like text messaging with virtual earth or “foundational
applications from Amazon.com  or eBay ,” said Chu.

The competition, which kicks off on March 6, will progress in two stages. In
phase one, developers can describe their idea, either using Flash-based
storyboarding or simply text descriptions submitted to a new sandbox Microsoft has created for this
purpose.

The ideas will then be judged by developers from Microsoft, British Telecom
and other peers in the developer community, and a subset of contestants will
be invited to actually build out the service they’ve described using sandbox
tools.

Winning developers can earn between $2,500 and $25,000; they will also have
the opportunity to see their service deployed by one of Microsoft’s CSF
customers.

Chu said Microsoft hopes the ideas that come out of the sandbox will show
telecom operators that they can generate new revenue streams by embracing
Web 2.0.

“We wanted to bootstrap our ecosystem to help telcos transform themselves to
Telco 2.0,” he said.

Developers whose ideas are picked up by the telcos will get a share of the
new revenues they help generate, Chu added.

Microsoft expects the first phase of the competition to end in early April,
and development work to be completed by mid-May.

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