Microsoft shoves BlackBerry with push e-mail

Microsoft this week announced several mobile messaging partnerships and handhelds, with a flock of hardware vendors and network operators.

The news, announced at the 3GSM World Congress this week in Barcelona, Spain, comes just as new cellular-based handhelds running Windows Mobile 5.0 begin to hit the market.

The newest version of the operating system is a key element in Microsoft's mobile messaging plan, which also relies on automatic push messaging features now available for Microsoft Exchange Server through Service Pack 2. Using SP2 and devices with the new operating system, enterprises can give handheld users the basic features of a mobile e-mail system such as Research in Motion's BlackBerry service. Microsoft calls its technology "Direct Push."

But unlike the RIM service, no additional software and servers are needed, and users are not wedded to just BlackBerry devices. The Microsoft software also lets users access and synchronize the full range of data in Microsoft Office Outlook, including contacts and calendars.

Via a software update called Messaging and Security Feature Pack (MSFP), Windows Mobile 5.0 also gives network operators or enterprise administrators new device management and security features. One example is the ability to remotely wipe clean all data from a lost or stolen Windows Mobile handheld.

At the 3GSM event, Microsoft announced that Cingular Wireless, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone are all offering their Windows Mobile 5.0 users a free upgrade for the Security Feature Pack.

Vodafone also announced the launch of a European smartphone service, Windows Mobile Email. Starting in March, Vodafone will offer subscribers new Windows Mobile handsets that can send and receive mobile e-mail through the familiar Microsoft Outlook GUI. The service is aimed at small and medium-sized business users, initially in France, Germany, and the U.K.

New handhelds were unveiled from HP, Fujitsu Siemens, Gigabyte Communications and HTC, among others.

Some of the devices will only be available outside the U.S. But HP is offering the new HP iPAQ hw6900 globally, and in the U.S. this summer. It has four integrated radios: quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE, Wi-Fi, GPS(4) and Bluetooth. Via the Bluetooth link, the handset can communicate with printers, headsets, and other Bluetooth devices. Also included is Skype Mobile software, to make VoIP phone calls over high-speed Internet connections. The handset incorporates a keyboard and a 1.3-megapixel HP Photosmart camera, and a built-in GPS receiver and companion navigation applications.

Texas Instruments announced that several handheld manufacturers are building new Windows Mobile smartphones, based on the latest Microsoft software and TI's EDGE chipset. According to TI, the single-core OMAPV1030 chipset brings to this class of devices for the first time the ability to run a complex software platform at lower cost.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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