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Microsoft gets smart with dumb phones

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Microsoft wants folks in emerging markets using inexpensive mobile phones to social-network away their free time just like fancy smartphone users do.

The company on Monday announced plans for a light-weight mobile application platform called OneApp, aimed at developing countries where cheaper phones and pre-paid services are the norm.

Despite wildfire growth of mobile devices in such markets, it's been a tough spot for developers to crack - in part due to the prevalence of phones with low processing power and memory.

Microsoft intends to solve this particular problem with the OneApp platform, which can serve up the majority of an application's processing and storage through a cell network rather than locally. The software is debuting in the next few weeks in South Africa, where Blue Label Telecoms will ship a mobile services package powered by OneApp with about a dozen mobile apps such as the usual gang of social networking tat like Facebook, Twitter, and Windows Live Messenger as well as a mobile wallet program. Additional apps will come later focusing on areas such as healthcare.

OneApp itself takes up a scant 150 kilobytes of memory and individual programs can be as compact as 10 to 15 kilobytes, according to Microsoft. The company also describes OneApp as being able to launch "just the parts of a mobile app that a person wants to use, eliminating additional installation time and the need for a person to store all the mobile apps on the phone."

Redmond intends to start offering a OneApp software developer kit before the end of this year. Programs for OneApp can be written using common tools like JavaScript and XML. The OneApp platform itself will be launched in more countries sometime in 2010.

You can heck out Microsoft's OneApp website here. ®

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