Microsoft today formally announced at 3GSM07 a full fledged Windows Live for Windows Mobile (that certainly trips off the tongue) client as well as two separate Windows Live Search options for mobile phones:
Today at 3GSM World Congress 2007, Microsoft Corp. announced three new Windows Live™ for mobile services that provide search and communications capabilities to help people access their world of relationships, information and interests from their mobile device. Now available in the United States and the United Kingdom, Live Search for Windows Mobile® and Live Search for Java provide customers with advanced local search and mapping capabilities on their mobile device. In conjunction with the availability of Windows Mobile 6, Microsoft also introduced Windows Live for Windows Mobile — a rich set of Windows Live services including e-mail, instant messaging and search — uniquely designed to work with Windows Mobile powered devices.
Live Search for Windows Mobile and Live Search for Java
Live Search is now available as a software client application on Windows Mobile and Java devices. These Live Search applications represent the latest innovation in mobile search from Microsoft, providing customers with fast, easy-way access to local listings and maps. New capabilities include a unique, category-based search, which virtually eliminates the need to type text into the phone; an option to “map all results” so several listings appear on the same map; aerial imagery; and local traffic status in selected U.S. cities. Live Search for Windows Mobile provides additional new capabilities including satellite imagery, GPS integration and the ability to send search results to a friend.
The new Live Search applications will be available in the United States and the United Kingdom to customers using Windows Mobile powered devices, Nokia Series 40 and Series 60 devices, the Motorola RAZR/SLVR family, and assorted LG and Samsung devices.
Customers interested in the Live Search for Windows Mobile and Live Search for Java applications can go to http://mobile.search.live.com to view a complete list of device availability and download the software for their device at no cost. Users can easily download the Live Search client directly to their mobile phone by going to http://wls.live.com on their phone’s browser.
Windows Live for Windows Mobile
Windows Live for Windows Mobile will provide customers with a rich set of Windows Live services, including Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Messenger, Live Search and Windows Live Spaces, uniquely designed to work with Windows Mobile software. Windows Mobile powered devices, with their advanced software, processing power and memory, make ideal platforms for the delivery of Windows Live services. Windows Live for Windows Mobile offers one of the first industry examples of a single integrated and presence-enabled contact list on a mobile device. One consolidated list provides customers with easy access to all their Windows Live, Microsoft Office Outlook® and other contacts, as well as relevant presence information.
The Windows Live Developer Program for Mobile now supports the development tools for independent software vendors (ISVs) to create applications such as Windows Live for Windows Mobile. The developer program provides software development kits, testing guidelines and support to ISVs to develop Windows Live for mobile solutions for Windows Mobile, Java, Symbian and Palm devices, and deploy them with mobile operators. Developers who are interested in joining the Windows Live Developer Program for Mobile should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
More details by following the link, but except for the Java variant these seem like predictable mappings of Windows Live services to the Windows Mobile form factor and infrastructure. The outreach to other platforms including actually building a Java version of Live Search is reasonably prompted by the desire to not exclude any possible ciustomers and after all that is the point of a Web based service.
Today, Microsoft solidified their credentials as a Digital Rights Management provider for downloadable media with the announcement at 3GSM07 of Microsoft PlayReady for mobile devices which they claim is a “Breakthrough Technology Enabling Simple Access to Broad Set of Digital Content, Including Music, Games, Video, Ring Tones and Pictures”:
Today at 3GSM World Congress 2007, Microsoft Corp. announced Microsoft PlayReady™ technology, a new multimedia content access technology optimized to meet the needs of mobile operators and handset manufacturers for digital entertainment and commerce. Supporting multiple content types, and flexible rights, Microsoft PlayReady enables operators to provide a range of new services tailored toward growing consumer interest in mobile digital media. Leading mobile operators worldwide, including Telefónica, O2, Verizon Wireless, Bouygues Telecom, and Cingular Wireless, now the new AT&T, are today indicating plans to implement Microsoft PlayReady technology.
The result of extended dialogue with the mobile industry, Microsoft PlayReady technology enables a broad spectrum of business models such as subscription, rental, pay-per-view, preview and super-distribution, which can be applied to many digital content types and a wide range of audio and video formats. Content types supported include music, video, games, ring tones and images. Audio/video formats supported include Windows Media Audio (WMA), AAC/AAC+/HE-AAC, Windows Media Video (WMV), and H.264. Microsoft PlayReady enhancements make it easier for consumers to move their content between their devices, giving them a new level of freedom with their digital content. This technology will be available in the first half of 2007 for handset and device implementation.
Wireless delivery of content to handsets continues to grow rapidly, underscoring the need for compatibility and interoperability. To address this requirement, Microsoft PlayReady has been designed to be fully backward compatible with Windows Media DRM 10, allowing devices that support Microsoft PlayReady to access content using Windows Media DRM. Microsoft will also provide an interoperability program so content may flow to qualifying DRM and content protection technologies.
I guess Microsoft isn’t joining Steve Jobs’ “no DRM” bandwagon any time soon, but that’s no surprise and in fact, the “interoperability program” mentioned in the press release seems to play up to the European governments that have Jobs so vexed.
Also interesting, but still forthcoming, will be the details on whether PlayReady actually plays nicely with the old Microsoft PlaysForSure DRM specification (based on Windows Media DRM 10) which some current mobile phones support, not to mention the new and incompatible Zune DRM (aka “Microsoft’s future“) which presumably will be on the rumored Zune Phone.
It’s a bit anticlimactic since Microsoft had to unveil Windows Mobile 6 (codenamed Crossbow) last week due to a French press leak, but now as originally planned, Microsoft Reveals New Windows Mobile 6 Smartphone Software:
BARCELONA, Spain — Feb. 12, 2007 — Microsoft Corp. today unveiled Windows Mobile® 6, the newest version of its mobile software platform. By improving usability and adding support for Microsoft® Office features previously available only on PCs, Microsoft Windows Mobile 6 delivers to the small screen a familiar and rich experience that meets the needs of work and life while on the go, all with a single device.
More details by following the link including
Windows Mobile 6 comes fresh on the heels of a successful year that saw Microsoft’s worldwide converged mobile device shipments grow 135.3 percent (year over year) in 2006, according to leading IT market research and advisory firm IDC. The industry is fast taking notice of Microsoft in the wireless arena and realizing the business benefits of Windows Mobile devices, resulting in IDC’s expectation that Windows Mobile will experience the largest growth of any mobile operating system worldwide, at 75.6 percent, through the year 2010.
Unlike Windows’ dominance in personal computing, Microsoft’s U.S. cellphone market share isn’t much–about 1% in November 2006, according to research firm M:Metrics. But that represents 2 million people, and it’s more than double its share two years ago. Last fall, it passed rival Palm OS in the U.S.
Worldwide, Microsoft sold 9 million Windows Mobile licenses last year, on devices from 47 different manufacturers and 115 mobile operators in 55 countries. Last quarter, the company sold 3 million licenses, up more than 90% from a year ago.
And the market is growing: In 2007, people will buy more than a billion cellphones worldwide, according to Yankee Group, with smartphones accounting for more than 113 million, or 11% of all phones sold. In 2010, Yankee Group projects smartphone sales to top 243 million, or 20% of all phone sales.
Microsoft doesn’t sell its own phones–yet–but handset companies like Motorola and HTC pay the company a license fee for each Windows Mobile phone they make.
Well they do now, but the rumored Zune Phone changes all the bets.
The ink on last year’s Microsoft Zune press releases was barely dry when speculation started about a Zune Phone egged on by CEO Steve Ballmer. Now the rumors are heating up again after John Letzing at MarketWatch spotted a likely FCC filing. However, reading the fine print reveals a strange duck that is “an orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) device to be used for ‘consumer broadband access and networking.’” The general suspicion is that this means WiMAX which is a high bandwidth wireless technology that is just getting off the ground. To add to the mystery, Google, HP, and Intel are listed as a supporters of the FCC application.
However, Matt Hickey at CrunchGear fans the flames with the speculation that a Zune phone would run on a high speed 4G WiMAX network like the one to be built by Sprint/Nextel. This lash-up could provide a mobile VoIP offering plus the likely ability to use ordinary Wi-Fi hotspots. Even better, CrunchGear’s inside sources say that the Zune phone will be announced in March and shipped in May thus neatly upstaging Apple’s iPhone.
All of this is certainly exciting, but the idea of a Zune Phone brings up the more fundamental question of where it would leave Microsoft’s Windows Mobile partners who are ready to show off their new Windows Mobile 6 handsets next week at 3GSM. Microsoft’s Zune crew apparently has license to run roughshod over other parts of Microsoft and their partnerships as evidenced by the hapless PlaysForSure partners (e.g. Creative Technologies, iRiver, Samsung) who got blindsided by the Zune portable media player itself last year. A Zune Phone in whatever form hits right at the phone vendors who have signed up for Windows Mobile (e.g. Samsung, Palm, HTC, Motorola, LG) just when it was showing signs of success, at least in the USA. Beyond the technical particulars, the real Zune Phone question then is whether Microsoft is willing yet again to shutter one of their own projects and cannibalize their partners’ markets in favor of rolling their own.
Update: Microsoft says FCC filing not Zune-related. Fair enough, but as long as the Zune Phone remains a possibility there will still be an inherent conflict with Windows Mobile.