Microsoft moves on corporate mobility

18 Sep 2003

Motorola’s recent departure from the Symbian consortium and its decision to nail its colours firmly to Microsoft’s Stinger mast brings Microsoft closer to its objective of becoming the standard mobile phone of the corporate mobile phone market, says Gartner.

Earlier this month, Motorola departed the €472m Symbian alliance, unloading its 19pc stake in the consortium. Motorola said that it will remain as a Symbian software licensee and will support the operating system for specific customer and business needs, including 3G devices. The company iterated that it was primarily interested in Java applications for mobile, which are supported by Symbian and also by the rival Microsoft-Intel mobile operating system axis.

However, Motorola’s real purpose was revealed when Motorola unveiled the MPx200, a new mobile phone powered by Microsoft’s Smartphone 2002 OS (operating system). Orange, France Telecom’s mobile phone arm, will offer the product in the UK beginning in October 2003. AT&T Wireless will distribute the MPx200 in the US during the fourth quarter of 2003, followed by additional distributors in Hong Kong and Europe.

According to Gartner, Motorola is restructuring its phone software platforms portfolio to be more opportunistic — a strategy employed by competitor, Samsung. Although it retains a licence and produces Symbian-based products, Motorola is putting more emphasis on its own environment called Java User Interface eXperience, based on Linux (a platform favoured by Asian buyers) and Java. Its announcement with Microsoft furthers this shift to better serve enterprise and north American markets.

Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney said: “Microsoft needed Motorola to legitimatise its offering. Motorola is the largest major manufacturer to support Microsoft’s Smartphone OS and the second largest provider of mobile terminal devices in the world. Integration with a mature, world-class vendor will enable Microsoft to enjoy significant improvements over the first Microsoft-based smartphone, the Orange SPV launched October 2002.

“Motorola can provide Microsoft with considerable hardware expertise to boost the desirability of the design, the quality of the plastics and keypad, and radio performance. To date, Microsoft has struggled with the subtleties of supporting various networks, battery life and building an OS for a device with small space for a CPU and memory.”

Success for the new phone, he said, will hinge on overcoming the perception that the Microsoft OS is immature.

Gartner recommends that mobile terminal manufacturers monitor Microsoft’s Smartphone OS design and usability developments, but target any products for the second half of next year.

“Microsoft will likely use Motorola’s input as well as other lessons learned to prepare another version of the OS for delivery in 2004, a potential watershed event for original equipment manufacturers. Microsoft’s OS will continue to appeal to Microsoft Outlook users and IT decision makers. Ultimately, it may move Microsoft closer to its goal of becoming the corporate standard phone,” Dulaney added.

By John Kennedy