Unveiling a new TV service for mobile phones and a new unified communications solution for mobile devices, Microsoft Corp Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer today introduced several innovative solutions and strategies that will generate more revenue opportunities for mobile operators and provide compelling benefits for subscribers.
As part of his keynote speech at 3GSM World Congress 2006, Ballmer announced the upcoming availability of Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile, which provides workers with the advantages of enterprise-grade, real-time collaboration capabilities for their mobile solutions. He also showed off a new live TV service introduced by Virgin Mobile and BT Movio powered by Microsoft for Windows Mobile-based Smartphones, and the new sync centre for mobile devices in Windows Vista, the new Windows operating system debuting later this year.
Ballmer also shared the first public demonstration of how Windows Live, the recently introduced set of personal internet services and software, will extend from the PC and internet to mobile devices, and highlighted how leading mobile operators are using other innovative mobile services to attract new customers and build subscriber loyalty.
“We’re about to kick-start a new growth engine for the mobile industry,” Ballmer said. “To grow, the wireless industry needs to provide end-to-end solutions and innovative services. We’re creating great new tools to do just that.”
Microsoft Growth in Wireless Industry Built on Partner Approach
As part of the address, Ballmer highlighted the growth of Microsoft in the wireless industry over the past three years. The company has progressed from working with only one mobile operator in one country with one device-maker to 102 mobile operators in 55 countries with 47 device-makers overall today.
In addition, Microsoft shipped more than 6 million Windows Mobile-based connected devices in 2005, and expects the market to grow significantly. Leading IT market research and advisory firm IDC expects the worldwide market for converged devices to reach more than 181 million units by 2009.(i) To help mobile operators take advantage of this growing market, Microsoft is using assets from across all seven divisions of the company to deliver access to the web, e-mail, instant messaging and even live TV feeds to subscribers.
“Our focus on providing new solutions for subscribers offers the greatest opportunities for our partners,” Ballmer said. “From the back end to the front end, Microsoft has the assets and expertise to unify mobile communication in ways that are compelling for customers and differentiated and profitable for mobile operators, developers and device-makers.”
Introducing Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile
With Microsoft Office Live Communications Server, Communicator Mobile offers workers an enterprise-grade solution for mobile devices that goes beyond just simple voice services. Communicator Mobile incorporates connected communication modes such as security-enhanced instant messaging, presence awareness and integrated VoIP telephony.
Communicator Mobile is one of Microsoft’s steps to extending Live Communications Server capabilities to Windows Mobile-powered devices, enabling companies to deploy enterprise-grade, real-time collaboration capabilities that provide a consistent real-time communications experience across PCs and smart mobile devices. Communicator Mobile’s rich communication features enable people to stay in touch with key colleagues, partners and customers to handle time-sensitive requests and make better decisions quickly.
Communicator Mobile is expected to be available for download for Live Communication Server customers within 60 days. More information is available from Microsoft account representatives or online at http://www.microsoft.com/rtc.
Virgin Mobile First to Deliver Live Mobile TV With BT Movio and Microsoft Technology
Microsoft is also helping deliver exciting entertainment services for mobile phones. Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group of Companies, joined Ballmer via a video message broadcast on stage to the world’s first DAB-IP enabled Smartphone from HTC Corp. In the message Sir Richard announced that Virgin Mobile will be the first mobile operator to sign up for the new BT Movio broadcast digital TV and radio service, which is built with Windows Media technology and works with Windows Mobile-based Smartphones. This will make Virgin Mobile customers the first in Europe to have live digital TV on their mobile phones.
“Mobile TV marks the beginning of a new epoch for our industry and the Virgin Mobile tellyphone is something I know consumers are really excited about,” said Sir Richard, founder of the Virgin Group of companies. “Everyone watches TV these days, and being able to watch your favourite programmes on your mobile while on the go will soon be as natural as watching TV in your living room today.”
Virgin Mobile will offer the broadcast service on a limited exclusive basis to its customers later this year. Virgin Mobile customers that subscribe to the service will have access to a wide range of digital TV content and more than 350 digital radio stations broadcast 24 hours a day.
Making Services the Future: Windows Live for Mobile
With an eye to the future, Ballmer unveiled plans to enable Windows Live services for any device so people can take advantage of next-generation search and communications capabilities, including instant messaging and e-mail via the web from virtually any mobile device.
Building on the investment in mobile search evidenced by the company’s recent acquisition of MotionBridge, Microsoft demonstrated Windows Live Mobile Search, including local search, which enables customers to quickly find what they need in the location they are searching. Windows Live Mail for Mobile was also demonstrated, which shares a common address book with Windows Live services for PCs and helps customers access and maintain the list of people they communicate with from the PC and mobile device.
With Windows Live services, Microsoft will help mobile operators realise new differentiation and monetisation options through best-in-class mobile consumer services. The new Windows Live for Mobile model also provides developers and mobile operators with the ability to differentiate, innovate and bring solutions to market faster based on its open application programming interfaces (APIs).
Customers in several markets around the world can try the betas of mobile versions of Windows Live Mail, Messenger, Search and MSN Spaces by signing up at ideas.live.com or by going to http://mobile.live.com on their mobile browser. Windows Live Mail and Search betas for mobile are now available in key markets such as Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, the UK and the US. Also, Windows Live Local Search beta is now available in the US and will go live in the in the UK on 15 Feb 2006.
Creating New Operator Opportunities: Bouygues Telecom
Ballmer also discussed how Microsoft is providing innovative technology to maximise revenue opportunities with current subscribers, while also reaching out to new subscribers.
Last week Bouygues Telecom in France announced its intent to deliver a specifically designed version of MSN Hotmail for mobile phones to its customers. MSN Messenger on i-mode has been a success for Bouygues, with more 45,000 customers actively using the service (with an average usage of more than five hours per month), and has only been available for three months. MSN Hotmail mobile service will be available to i-mode customers later this month, giving them another option for contacting friends and family while on the go.
New Devices, More Support for E-Mail Solutions
Ballmer also highlighted several new Windows Mobile-based Smartphones that were introduced at the trade show, including new Windows Mobile-based devices that will ship enabled with Direct Push technology: the HP iPAQ hw6900 Mobile Messenger, the Gigabyte Communications g-Smart (offered by Chunghwa Telecom Co Ltd in Taiwan), the ASUS P305 3G-enabled Smartphone, and the Fujitsu Siemens FS Pocket Loox. In addition, HTC has unveiled a new product portfolio of Windows Mobile-based devices that are Direct Push-enabled and will be made available globally to T-Mobile and other operators beginning in the second quarter of this year.
Microsoft also announced earlier in the week global commitments by Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange and Cingular Wireless to provide free upgrades to the Messaging and Security Feature Pack (MSFP) for all their Windows Mobile 5.0 customers, enabling Direct Push functionality and providing enhanced device management and security for messaging applications.
Improved Mobile Device Support With Windows Vista Through Innovation and Partner Integration
Ballmer also discussed new mobility enhancements for Windows Vista, the next version of the Windows client operating system launching in 2006. Demonstrating for the first time the Windows Mobile Device Center, Ballmer showed how Windows Vista will make it easier to connect Windows Mobile-powered devices to PCs, and enable synchronisation of data, contacts, pictures, music and more.
The Windows Mobile Device Center works with the new Windows Vista Sync Center, which unifies the management of synchronisation activities across Windows Mobile-based devices and the synchronisation between other PCs and network file shares. Microsoft also announced that it was working with industry partners such as OEMs and mobile operators to include branded customisation around synchronisation for increased partner opportunity and improved customer experience.