British Telecom and Microsoft formed
an alliance Monday to develop data services that will offer access
to the Internet from mobile phones around the world.
The deal which emphasiZes the increasing co-operation
of computer and telecom companies to exploit the benefits
of new technology is in direct competition to Symbian,
the partnership of Psion, Ericsson, Nokia and Motorola.
On Monday shares in Psion, which recently hit all-time highs
on the London stock market, fell sharply as details
of the rival offering emerged.
Of the BT-Microsoft tie-up, which could yet be joined by
AT&T;, the U.S. telecoms group, in the venture, one Wall
Street analyst said: "BT is obviously serious about being a
player in wireless Internet services. They've made a
powerful point. Wireless Internet is becoming the next big
thing in telecoms."
Some analysts agree with the projections of mobile
operators that next year more mobile phones with Internet
connection will be sold than laptop computers.
BT will involve Concert, its international corporate
customer arm, in the alliance which will offer services
primarily aimed at businesses. Concert was originally built
up as part of BT's attempted takeover of MCI, the U.S.
phone company. The failure of that deal left a gaping hole
in BT's U.S. expansion strategy which it now hopes to fill
with the new Microsoft and AT&T; links.
Microsoft's main interest in the deal is establishing the
Windows operating system as a universal standard for
mobile Internet communications.
Paul Maritz, Microsoft's group vice-president for
platforms and applications, announced the partnership
with BT at an industry conference in New Orleans.
Last November, Microsoft and Qualcomm of the U.S.
created a joint venture, Wireless Knowledge, to develop
wireless services for business customers in the U.S. The
alliance with BT is expected to focus on non-U.S.
customers, with trials in the UK beginning in the spring.
In another link-up of telecoms and computer companies,
Motorola and Cisco Systems, the Internet hardware
company, on Monday agreed an alliance to develop mobile
The two companies say they will spend up to $1 billion
over the next five years to make the
Internet as versatile over mobile networks as through