Microsoft to go 3G?

.Net unfurls

All the time spent in the court room seems to have given Microsoft plenty of time to contemplate life the universe and everything. Never one to lie on its laurels the company is always keen to look for new markets to move into. We saw recently that the troubled telecom operator WorldCom may be on the shopping list and now there is news that the Redmond software vendor may be taking on other struggling telecoms companies in the 3G space.

Rarely a week goes by without another telecom operator or manufacturer announcing more tales of woe. Whilst the Internet and mobile phones have proved popular, the bursting of the dot com bubble has taken the wind out of the sails of the telecom industry. Microsoft by comparison has continued, through fair means or foul, to maintain its dominant position in operating systems and the desktop applications market. And with the DoJ case over bar the shouting, the money the company saved in case of massive financial penalties is now bulging out of the pockets of Bill et al.

So, with the telecoms industry on its knees, Microsoft smells an opportunity. The idea is that Microsoft will get the mobile operators to adopt mobile devices that use the Windows operating systems and are based on a design by Microsoft, Texas Instruments and Intel. The devices would be produced by Asian manufacturers making them inexpensive and quick to deliver.

This plays into the hands of the company's .Net strategy. Microsoft is betting the business on its move into Web Services and the more devices there are running the company's operating system and software, the more it makes in licensing fees. The story has a familiar ring to it as the strategy is remarkably similar to the one used to gain dominance in the PC sector where the company 'encouraged' PC vendors to adopt the Windows operating system.

This time the competition comes from the incumbent mobile manufacturers such as Nokia, Sony-Ericsson, Motorola and Panasonic. Many of the devices produced by these manufacturers use the Symbian operating system and so phase two of the plan will no doubt be to 'encourage' these manufacturers off the Symbian platform and onto Windows.

In normal market conditions, you may question whether or not this strategy will work. After all, the mobile market of today is far more mature than the PC market of the 1980s and the incumbent vendors are established international organisations, not Taiwanese clone makers. But as every telecom associated vendor continues to report losses, the Microsoft pill can be greatly sweetened by the offer of a cash infusion.

Love 'em or loath 'em you've got to admire the balls of Bill et al.

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