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Microsoft server software uses location

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Microsoft says it may have come up with a "killer application" for devices that run its Pocket PC Phone Edition operating system software, and on Wednesday announced a new server product that could allow developers to prove that right.

At the DemoMobile show taking place this week in La Jolla, Calif., the company will be demonstrating the Microsoft Enterprise Location Server, server software that allows enterprise customers to build applications for mobile devices that make use of location-based services.

Customers that purchase Microsoft's server are expected to be able to build applications that let Pocket PC Phone Edition devices get maps that identify where the user is at any given time, where other users are, and nearby points of interest.

The server software initially will be targeted at enterprise customers. For example, a cable company might use the server to create an application that would direct field service representatives to nearby installation jobs. Such an application could deliver to an employee's handset a map of a day's worth of job sites, as well as driving directions to each of those locations.

Microsoft is teaming with AT&T Wireless Services Inc. for the initial offering. AT&T Wireless will provide all the location information to enterprise customers that purchase the server software. The company has built an XML Web service that locates a handset and exposes that information to an application via the Enterprise Location Server. Using that geographical information, Microsoft has designed the server software to then call on its MapPoint.Net service to receive maps and driving directions.

The server also allows application developers to call on other services to receive such things as instant messenger buddy lists, so that a user could identify the physical location of each person on his buddy list.

"It will be very easy for the enterprise to take that information and extend it in any application," said Steve Lombardi, technical product manager for MapPoint.Net.

Applications that run on the Enterprise Location Server make use of the .Net Compact Framework, Microsoft's software runtime environment that allows .Net applications to run on small handheld devices, such as those based on the Windows CE operating system. Microsoft released the second beta version of the .Net Compact Framework on Monday.

AT&T is expected to sell enterprise customers a Pocket PC Phone Edition handset for use on its network that will facilitate new location-based applications, according to Microsoft. That phone is currently undergoing trial tests and is expected to be released commercially in 2003, Microsoft said.

Pricing and availability of the Microsoft Enterprise Location Server were not yet available.

The IDG News Service is a Network World affiliate.

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