Microsoft Eyes Doubling Mobile Sales in China

Microsoft Corp. expects that shipments to China of handsets with its software will more than double in the next year amid an expected boom in demand for Web access once the country launches 3G wireless services.

About 2 million mobile devices installed with Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) operating systems were shipped to China in the last year, about 10 percent of the software giant’s global total, Benjamin Tan, business group director for China at Microsoft’s Mobile Communications Business.

“Microsoft’s shipments into China has basically doubled [in the past year]. In the next one … we are aiming to more than double our shipments into China,” Tan told Reuters in a telephone interview on Monday.

Microsoft’s mobile communications business division provides operating systems for smartphones and other mobile devices based on the Windows Mobile platform.

Microsoft works with device manufacturers including Samsung Electronics, Motorola (NYSE: MOT) and High Tech Computer Corp.

The size of China’s mobile phone market is expected to reach 323.22 million units in 2011, according to Beijing-based research firm Analysys International, compared to 149.13 million units in 2007.

China has long said it intends to award licenses for third-generation (3G) mobile services, which would allow blazing Internet access and multimedia streaming.

“3G’s going to be a major, major springboard for innovative mobile applications here in China,” Tan said, adding it would drive adoption of services such as mobile TV broadcasting, online gaming and potentially mobile commerce and payment.

Adoption of newer mobile technologies in China is also likely to proceed at a faster rate than in other countries, Tan added.

“The vast majority of Chinese consumers, unlike that of the more developed economies, don’t really have a legacy. They’ve never really experienced the slow speed of dialup Internet, for them it’s just a fat pipe,” he said.

The timing of 3G’s launch is still unknown, however, with some analysts expecting it to be delayed until at least the second half of this year.

Rumors that 3G, as well as a long-awaited restructuring of China’s telecoms sector, intermittently push around shares in the country’s operators, which include China Mobile and China Unicom.

“At this point it’s all conjecture and nothing is confirmed,” Tan said, when asked when 3G will materialize.

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