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Leaked MS email reveals deal plans with BT, AT&T, Airtouch

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An apparent blunder in email addressing seems to have revealed a string of major Microsoft deals in the wireless market a month early. The recipient of the email, which is claimed to be a highly confidential Microsoft internal document, was lucky old CNET News.com, which promptly and happily proceeded to publish its content. The news service doesn't name the MS executive who perpetrated the blooper, but if the mail's genuine it must have been someone relatively senior, considering the nature of the deals planned. It speaks of a major deal pending with British Telecom and AT&T, and distribution deals being negotiated with AirTouch and Sprint PCS. All of these are plausible. Microsoft is already allied with British Telecom and AT&T, and these two are themselves allied. BT is currently running a pilot wireless data scheme in conjunction with Microsoft, and extending this would make sense. The fact that the email speaks of Airtouch rather than Vodafone-Airtouch suggests that Microsoft's deal-makers are focussing on the US here. The proposed Airtouch and Sprint links concern the delivery of Mobile MSN 2.0, an extension of the service Microsoft already offers with another US wireless outfit, Nextel. But the recent slew of wireless Web announcements from Vodafone-Airtouch makes it pretty clear that the company wishes to build its own services rather than tag along behind Microsoft ones, so although this deal will be a major catch if it happens, it'll be a tricky one to pull off. Aside from any friction caused with potential partners by the leak, the memo is actually pretty positive for Microsoft, because it suggests that the company could be about to make major breakthroughs in wireless. Up to now it's tended to find itself outflanked by the existing wireless players, so in an odd (one might almost say 'suspicious') sort of way the leak is great marketing spin. According to CNET, the purpose of the email was to plan the content of Bill Gates' keynote speech for the Wireless 2000 show on 28th February, the big deal announcements being preferred as the ones to major on. But it also proposes a few others. A Mobile MSN 2.0 demo is mooted, along with Mobile Explorer running on a smart phone and/or CE PDA. Samsung is also put forward as a licensee for Mobile Explorer, but as Samsung is already committed to building CE wireless devices, this is hardly what you'd call a biggie. So if BT, AT&T et al throw fits about the leak and refuse to play, Bill may wind up having to major on the vision thing again. ® CNET story: Internal email discloses Microsoft's wireless plans

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