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Microsoft to allow European users e-mail mobile access

August 25, 2001

LONDON: Microsoft Corp will give its 20 million e-mail users in Europe access to messages via their mobile phones, the company said yesterday in unveiling a new alliance with European mobile operators.

The initiative involving a joint venture between Danish mobile operator TDC Mobile International, and Anglo-Dutch CMG Wireless Data Solutions, is the latest step in Microsoft's strategy to bring its software products and Web offerings to mobile devices, including phones, pagers and handheld devices.

This was the first time Microsoft has made Hotmail accessible via mobile phones, the company said.

Hotmail is one of the most commonly accessed features on MSN, Europe's leading Web portal. In the future, Microsoft intends to give mobile users greater access to the MSN portal whether it is to read news headlines or scan parts of the Web, the company said.

Users will be able to access their Hotmail account and send e-mail messages via short messaging service, commonly known as SMS, Microsoft said.

Mobile computing – particularly the ability to access e-mail via users’ mobile phones – is not new. Internet-ready phones, introduced by the Wireless Application Protocol and the faster General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) technologies, can perform this function. But take-up by consumers has been gradual.

On the other hand, SMS usage has exploded in Europe with millions of users regularly tapping messages from their phone pad, at an average cost of 10 to 20 pence per message.

The companies are hoping that by basing the initiative on the already familiar SMS platform, and making it available to millions of Hotmail users, it will bring a long-sought kick-start to the mobile computing industry.

Declan Lonergan, director of the European wireless/mobile group at The Yankee Group in London, said the Microsoft announcement was a good, if short-term, step toward introducing mobile computing to the masses.

“Maybe, with Microsoft coming to the table, it will make more user-friendly,” Lonergan said. “I think delivering e-mail via the SMS channel is a clever way forward, but I think GPRS will take most of the traffic in the future.”

In the short term it could be a very important chunk of business for mobile operators looking to cash in on users dialling in to check e-mail.

“...With this alliance we are extending our capability to offer mobile carriers an immediate opportunity to generate revenue based on two-way SMS by providing their consumers with access to MSN Hotmail,” Judy Gibbons, vice-president of MSN Europe, Middle East and Africa, said in a statement. — Reuters

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