Microsoft moves to squish BlackBerry

18 May 2006

Microsoft and Vodafone have joined forces to roll out Windows Mobile 5.0 ‘push’-based email messaging solutions to mobile devices across the Vodafone network.

The move might be construed as an effort by Microsoft to edge in on the lucrative corporate messaging market currently being dominated by Research in Motion (RIM) and its popular BlackBerry product.

Speaking to yesterday, Barry Gray, business data manager at Vodafone Ireland, explained that although Microsoft’s competitor to the RIM and Symbian operating systems, Windows Mobile 5.0, has been available for some time, it was as a result of the introduction of a patch called akaU2, otherwise known as the Messaging and Security Feature Pack, that Vodafone and Microsoft have teamed up.

“While Windows Mobile 5.0 was out there, there wasn’t a final version for devices facilitating ‘push’ email until now,” Gray explained. “In essence it is a very similar service to Blackberry.”

It is understood that service, entitled Windows Mobile from Vodafone, utilises a range of handheld devices to remotely access Microsoft Outlook (email, calendar and contacts) as well as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other applications.

Users can choose to sign up one of two monthly bundle options: 25MB for €12 or 50MB for €20 (prices are excluding Vat). Gray said that one of the devices the service will be available on will be the Vodafone V1240.

Gray said that unlike the Blackberry, the current offering will not work with POP-based email as the service is being targeted primarily at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and corporate enterprises.

He added: “Our aim is to work with the Microsoft reseller community to roll this out. The service works with the latest version of Exchange and there is a Service Pack that IT managers can download free of charge. While the service is being pushed by our own sales division and the Microsoft reseller community, the devices will be available on an on-demand basis from our retail division.”

He continued: “While the service currently isn’t being directed at POP email such as Hotmail, over time it will move in that direction.”

Gray said that Vodafone isn’t nailing its colours to any of the Microsoft, Symbian or RIM masts in particular. “What Vodafone are endeavouring to do is offer SME and corporate enterprise customers a choice in terms of business email and mobile enterprise applications. People have their preferences in terms of whether it’s a candy bar device they want or a PDA, a Nokia device or a Microsoft client.”

On the ongoing battle between Microsoft, RIM and Symbian, Gray added: “If you look across the various infrastructures of SMEs and corporate enterprises each of the different operating systems meet different needs. You’re not going to find a single fit that suits all. There is a lot of long-term potential here, so watch this space.”

By John Kennedy

Pictured are Mary Ashe Winton, small business manager, Microsoft Ireland and Barry Gray, business data manager, Vodafone Ireland