Microsoft has announced a raft of new partnerships, flagging 2002 as the year in which it plans to make significant in-roads into the wireless market. Ben Waldman, VP of the mobile devices division, said that Microsoftâ€™s initiatives would rectify the fact that wireless users have become â€œsecond-class citizensâ€ when it comes to content and applications. Waldman named eight operators that will be selling devices running the newly released Microsoft Pocket PC Phone Edition 2002.
Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile, Telefonica, mmO2, SingTel, Telstra and Turkcell will all be marketing the new devices, three of which have been unveiled so far. The HP Jornada 928 and mmO2â€™s XDA, PDA/mobile phone cross-overs coined as WDAs (wireless digital assistants), are expected to hit the market within the next two months. The Sendo Windows-Powered Smartphone (known as Stinger during its development phase, although that name has now been ditched) will follow in the summer.
In addition, Taiwanese manufacturer Compal is set to begin production of another Smartphone, based on the hardware reference design that Microsoft has released in conjunction with Texas Instruments.
Microsoft has also formed a wireless development initiative with Intel which should, â€œallow any manufacturer to produce a low cost Smartphone,â€ EMEA lead business manager Adam Anger commented. Anger also explained that there are no intentions to place the Microsoft brand on any handsets, despite partnering with lesser known manufacturers such as Sendo, because Microsoft wants to distance itself from the actual hardware products. He suggested that â€œa new breed of original design manufacturersâ€ such as Compal will steadily grow in stature because they produce handsets to order which operators can brand as their own. The only brand seen on the XDA, for example, is O2, and Anger expects this model to become increasingly commonplace. He also revealed that talks have been held with the larger handset vendors, and he did not rule out an appearance by Microsoft on the big-name terminals in the future. Anger identified enterprise customers and mobile professionals as the most likely early adopters of devices which operate with the Microsoft Phone Edition.
But the question remains as to whether a Windows-based terminal will prove attractive to the wider consumer market. The â€˜establishmentâ€™ manufacturers are no doubt keeping their fingers crossed that it wonâ€™t.
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