CTIA: Microsoft Touts Convergence, New IT Package

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took to the stage at CTIA in San Francisco Tuesday morning to talk about Microsofts vision of a work/lifestyle/mobile/fixed utopia and announced Microsoft System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008 for enterprise mobile IT management while he was at it.

User expectations have been transformed, he said. Phones keep getting smarter and running more powerful software. [Mobile phones are] the first real capital good that everyone expects to own. Its an amazing opportunity, he added, for telecom operators, developers, software companies, content and applications providers and users themselves.

And, he said, ubiquity creates a fundamentally a new model of computing. CTIA CEO Steve Largent in his introduction noted there are 243 million wireless subscribers in the United States as of June 30 and that they on average send 1 billion text messages every day. Ballmer said that with the mobile phone so entrenched in peoples lives, the four main computing models are coming together into one: desktop computing, enterprise server-based computing, the online world of social networking and advertising-based models and the world of devices, including phones and set-top boxes. You have to meld these together, said Ballmer. Users should have to choose which of the four texting accounts or five e-mail addresses they want to use thats yesterdays idea.

To that end, Ballmer went on to discuss how Microsoft is working on the work and lifestyle side to overcome innovation and business model challenges inherent in such convergence. Most significantly, he announced the Mobile Device Manager, which will work with forthcoming Windows Mobile devices. An update for the phones in the second quarter of next year will allow the package to work. The software allows a self-service portal for users to register their phones as part of Active Directory, as they would a PC, and it also contains server-side tools for the IT department for point-and-click device management, policy/security applications, over the air software updates and applications loading, and a mobile VPN to give users access to resources behind the corporate firewall. A first partner is AT&T Inc., with which Microsoft worked to optimize the software for the operators 3G network, and for the AT&T BlackJack 2, due out soon.

Ballmer then went on to tackle the lifestyle portion of the equation, using new devices like the Sprint Nextel Touch by HTC and AT&Ts Tilt both of which feature advanced functionality to support the true Internet with rich graphics and applications. A demonstration took the audience through the capabilities of Windows Mobile, like voice-activated Live Search, zoomable, color GPS maps and the ability to dial into Windows Media Center at home to program a DVR. Ballmer also mentioned that Microsoft is working to extend Xbox functionality to portable devices.

In the end, Ballmer noted, Microsoft is working to become a platform for innovation, investing heavily on the device side as well as in services to support rich application development. We want to weave together business models in a way that works for developers, telecom operators, users and software companies, he noted. [Users] want a phone that spans all of their work and life personae, in a wide selection of form factors. The phone is like a universal remote control for your life.

Microsoft Corp.

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