Microsoft Reinvents Itself in Mobile
By Monica Alleven
BARCELONA—Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer today outlined the company’s Windows mobile vision to an audience of about 300, plus a crowd that listened and watched in an overflow area on TV monitors.
The occasion? To name just a few, Microsoft officially announced Windows Mobile 6.5, a Windows Marketplace store for selling applications and a desire to get Windows on more phones.
The computer software giant, which has been intimately involved in the wireless business much longer than Apple and Google, is garnering more attention now as it puts more punch into its strategy. Myriad reports leading up to MWC discussed Microsoft’s My Phone sync product and even the possibility – which Microsoft denied – that the company would build its own smartphone.
Ballmer pointed to Microsoft’s strong history in the Windows Mobile ecosystem, including 500,000 software development companies and millions of units sold. “But the time has come to do more,” he said.
Windows phones need to come in different shapes and sizes to fit each individual owner, and Microsoft has to make sure, with its partners, that there is a Windows phone that meets each individual’s needs, including in the areas of productivity and social interaction, he said.
In an earlier interview, Tim McDonough, senior director for consumer experiences at Microsoft, explained the company is investing in three areas: helping people stay closer to what matters to them; empowering people to act; and letting consumers choose the devices and applications that uniquely apply to them.
In the area of staying closer, “we’ve done a lot of work to make Windows Mobile better looking and more useful at the same time,” he said. For example, end-users are able to customize their home screen with most-used apps.
The user interface (UI) overall is refreshed in version 6.5, which includes Live Messenger and HotMail. In another example of taking a popular desktop feature onto mobile, a high-performance browser allows for zoom, pan and double taps.
Microsoft confirmed it will offer an apps store, called Windows Marketplace, where end-users can get applications, which can be downloaded to a phone or a PC. No details were given as to when the marketplace will open for business.
Regarding personal choice, the strategy is to get Windows 6.5 on phones that are high end as well as less expensive. McDonough would not comment on the timing of Windows Mobile 7, which some expect to arrive next year. Given that version 7 could be coming next year, how many handset manufacturers might wait? McDonough couldn’t comment on that but said the company is seeing an enthusiastic response to 6.5; some handsets already are in the pipeline for 6.5 updates.
The latest version of Windows Mobile is shipping with Flash Lite, but there’s no word on when or if Microsoft will debut its Silverlight on mobile.
Nokia Comes with (More) Services
By Monica Alleven
BARCELONA—Nokia today announced its Ovi store and its plan to reach the masses with e-mail, and it featured two rather high-end devices as part of its Mobile World Congress extravaganza.
“Extravaganza” may be too strong a word, as the company has been somewhat more subdued than others during the current recession. Nonetheless, CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo & company drew a cathedral full of journalists and analysts to learn about its latest mobile moves.
Those moves include the Ovi store, which Nokia says is different because it’s not just a place to find applications; it’s familiar and knows the user, suggesting things the end-user might like, and doing that with location in mind. “It’s a smart store,” said Niklas Savander, executive vice president at Nokia. The store is not just for smartphones, though. It’s meant to work with a range of phones, from S40 to S60 devices. The Ovi store opens for business in nine countries starting in May.
Nokia also unveiled two additions to its Eseries, the Nokia E75 and the Nokia E55, which are the first to ship with the company’s new e-mail user interface. Both devices are equipped with Nokia Messaging that, when added to the company’s corporate e-mail clients, gives people access to consumer and corporate e-mail.
During their presentations, Nokia executives stressed that e-mail is an essential driver of productivity, and average people – not just U.S. President Barack Obama, who uses the rival BlackBerry device – want their e-mail anytime and anywhere.
The Nokia E75 is expected to ship in March at an estimated retail price of 375 EUR, before taxes and subsidies. The Nokia E55 is expected to ship in the second quarter at an estimated retail price of 265 EUR before taxes and subsidies.
Separately, Mary McDowell, chief development officer and executive vice president at Nokia, said the handset-maker-plus-more wants to bring Ovi to the United States, but the company has nothing yet to announce. The same goes for Comes with Music, which is live in the United Kingdom and will be introduced in more markets this year.
The company continues to work with Verizon Wireless and AT&T. As for LTE, Nokia initially will provide dongles and the like, but it’s a couple years away for any significant volume in handsets.
Meanwhile, Nokia plans on rolling out on a pilot basis in the United States a service whereby a person can point a cameraphone at a point of reference, take a picture and get back information on the place, such as a museum and its hours. “We’re kind of testing different concepts to see what works,” she said. “You can apply the technology so many different ways,” maybe even to get a “read” on personal acquaintances.
Sony Ericsson Sets Focus on Entertainment
By Monica Alleven
BARCELONA —Sony Ericsson’s marketing experts took to the stage Sunday evening to razzle and dazzle a standing-room-only crowd before the opening of Mobile World Congress. The big stars of the show were the W995, a Walkman phone; and the Idou, complete with a 12.1-megapixel camera and 3.5-inch screen for the movie-enjoying experience.
Three things Sony Ericsson will be discussing with customers this week are securing the customer base that it has; finding new revenue opportunities; and sustaining its brand positioning.
Sony Ericsson says its Entertainment Unlimited sums up what it’s been working toward since the join venture was launched in 2001 – the fusion of communication and entertainment. The proposition involves integrating the mobile phone into other devices in the home, so consumers can share and enjoy entertainment through the TV, PC and Hifi systems.
Lennard Hoornik, head of global marketing and vice president at Sony Ericsson, says Entertainment Unlimited lets the company reinforce its position as THE communication entertainment brand.
Media Go, which transfers, plays and organizes entertainment, will debut on the W995 Walkman, which supports GSM/GPRS/EDGE at 850 and 1900 MHz, besides European frequencies. It will be available in selected markets starting in the second quarter.
The Idou basically is set to combine the Walkman, Cybershot and gaming experiences so well-known by Sony. It will be available the second half of 2009. Idou is just the project name; the go-to-market name will be released later.
Sony Ericsson is a member of the Android-based alliance and is developing on the Android platform, but it has not yet announced a specific device based on Android.
Memoir Pricing Released
By Monica Alleven
BARCELONA—Samsung Telecommunications America and T-Mobile USA, along with photographer and model Helena Christensen, officially unveiled the Samsung Memoir, the touch-screen phone with an 8-megapixel camera. It’s available exclusively through T-Mobile USA beginning Feb. 25 and will sell for $249.99 with a two-year contract, $50 rebate and qualifying data plan.
Christensen was the first to gain hands-on experience with the Memoir, using it as her official phone and camera to shoot images during her travels around New York and Barcelona, the companies said.
The built-in 8-megapixel camera comes with digital imaging features, including Xenon flash, CMOS auto focus and 16x digital zoom. Accessing the Memoir’s camera menu, users can adjust the brightness and flash, change the default destination of images, select a timer and zoom in or out.
Users also can record video for up to 60 minutes depending on the resolution.
Report: Manufacturers Want Carriers, Users to Pay for Security
By Luke Simpson
McAfee released its Mobile Security Report 2009, which surveyed more than 30 international mobile device manufacturers. Results show that 63 percent of those surveyed felt that the carrier or user should foot the bill for security.
Just under one-third, or 31 percent, of the manufacturers felt that they should be responsible for the cost of security and 6 percent believed that security costs should be covered by other sources.
The report also revealed that handset manufacturers are focusing on some security measures more than others. Encryption and application certification were the most common security features installed at the factory, whereas content filtering and parental control were usually left to the carrier or user.
Mobile payments and banking were by far the biggest security threat to manufacturers, with 81 percent nominating them in their highest security concerns. Dan Hoffman, CTO of sMobile Systems, says the measures put in place by the banks don’t ensure secure transactions.
“Online banking uses password, encryption and anti-phishing software, but all of these measures rely on the fact that the device is secure.”
When asked how to best secure devices and deliver mobile security, only 12 percent of respondents believed that users should be responsible for activating or obtaining security features. An overwhelming 69 percent preferred the idea of an integrated solution requiring no user action.
Last year, McAfee focused its study on consumers, finding that up to 94 percent of all mobile users didn’t have mobile protection software on their mobile devices.
FirstNews News briefs for Feb. 16, 2009
Companies in today’s news: Ericsson, Bytemobile, TeliaSonera, Bsquare, Texas Instruments, Skyhook Wireless, mBlox, GetJar, Adobe.
• Ericsson CEO and President Carl-Henric Svanberg put a mostly positive spin on the future of telecom by pointing out the relative youth – roughly 10 years – of the Internet and need for billions of people to get connected, most likely via mobile broadband.
• Mobile Internet solutions provider Bytemobile announced a group supply agreement with TeliaSonera in the Nordic and Baltic countries. Bytemobile also announced its 100th customer network deployment at TeliaSonera Sweden. Under the terms of the group supply agreement, TeliaSonera operating companies, beginning with Sweden, will deploy Bytemobile’s integrated content adaptation solutions to enhance the mobile Web browsing and multimedia experience of users of the TeliaSonera SurfOpen service.
• Bsquare announced the availability of its jointly developed, optimized Windows Mobile 6.5 board support package (BSP) for the Texas Instruments (TI) OMAP 3 platform.
• Skyhook Wireless announced that Texas Instruments (TI) will integrate Skyhook’s XPS hybrid positioning system into TI’s mobile connectivity solutions. Skyhook’s XPS software solution will enable hybrid location positioning capabilities on TI’s NaviLink 6.0 and WiLink 6.0 solutions, available now, and on select future platforms.
• mBlox announced the launch in the United Kingdom of its mobile cross-operator “sender-pays data” trial. The trial is testing a business model for the mobile industry that allows content providers and service providers to bundle together the associated data costs for the purchase of mobile content, on behalf of the consumer. It will enable consumers to purchase data-rich content with the data cost included at the point of purchase.
• GetJar announced support for Adobe’s new over-the-air mobile runtime solution that includes the Adobe Flash Lite 3.1 Distributable Player. GetJar says it will be a major direct distributor for new games and applications that the developer community creates for the new Flash Lite runtime.
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