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Microsoft signs Motorola as vital ally in fixed-mobile convergence

New partners could pitch against Cisco and Nokia

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When Motorola ended its joint project with Cisco, focused on enterprise fixed/mobile convergence, earlier this year, it said it was moving more directly to full unified messaging.

Now the full context becomes clear, with the handset maker signing up with Microsoft to support the Windows giant's enhancement of its unified communications strategy.

With mobility the weakness in the plan, Motorola will bring significant advantages to Microsoft in terms of business focused devices like the new email-oriented Q, and multi-network hand-off software, a key Moto expertise.

In the mean time, Motorola moves further away from Cisco, which looks increasingly likely to set itself up as a challenger rather than an ally to Microsoft in this field, in order to solidify its own control of enterprise networking accounts.

Cisco has its own mobile supporter, Nokia, with which it is working on fixed/mobile messaging and calling. And Nokia's agenda is to usurp Microsoft's position in the large company as mobile devices start to take over some of the functions of the laptop.

When Office Communication Server 2007 launches, we can expect to see these battle lines becoming more sharply drawn, with Nokia seeking to unite the Linux/IP community behind its alternative to Windows Mobile Microsoft has long realised that unified communications – integrating all the various forms of messaging and mail into one interface – will be a key driver for enterprise office software, and has made some advanced moves with its Live Communications Server, to the extent of forming a dedicated Unified Communications group at the start of this year.

Where the strategy has had obvious weaknesses has been on the mobile side, generally the Achilles heel of Windows' attempts to continue to hold sway as the corporate client environment of choice.

Now, with seamless linking of desktop/deskphone and mobile platforms becoming a cornerstone of the enterprise shift to all-IP, Microsoft has signed up Motorola to plug its gaps. This is a canny move on both sides, and shows that, in the battle for the mobile enterprise, Motorola has decided that Nokia, not Microsoft, is the enemy.

The two companies' joint development and marketing activities will integrate the new Moto Q push email device - which aims to usurp the role of the RIM BlackBerry as the corporate mobile gadget of choice, and to fend off similar moves from Nokia – with Microsoft's forthcoming Office Communications Server 2007.

The combination will support communication, collaboration and integrated mailboxes (voicemail, email, instant messaging, SMS, push-to-all, conferencing, VoIP and videomail could all be included), across multiple wired or wireless access networks. Also included will be the Motorola HC700 rugged device and the Motopro Mobility Suite of software. Microsoft is also working with Siemens and Hewlett Packard.

Microsoft Unified Communications Group corporate vice president Gurdeep Singh Pall said the advanced mobility features made possible by the alliance would, for example, allow seamless roaming between different wireless networks and Wi-Fi hotspots.

To this end, Communications Server 2007 – which is slated to launch in the second half of this year - will integrate with Motorola's WSM (Wireless Services Manager) product, which facilitates hand-offs between WLan and cellular networks. This is a key strength in the Moto strategy, which is increasingly heavily focused on providing usable tools for integrating different wired and wireline networks.

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