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Comnitel's Crystal Balls

Unstrung is always keen to see people at the sharp (or is that blunt?) end of the wireless industry impersonate Nostradamus. Most mobile folk are not shy about offering their opinions, but Kieran Moynihan, CEO of mobile software developer Comnitel Technologies, was quicker than most to whip out his crystal ball when we met him earlier this week.

Although unwilling to tell us who will win baseball's World Series or Europe's Champions League soccer tournament (or even which major operator will be next to cough up an accounting scandal), sports-mad Moynihan predicted big-time trouble for Europe's 3G operators and the imminent arrival of Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) as a handset vendor. (If you listen hard enough, you can almost hear the team at Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications shivering in fear.)

"3G operators will have a tough time getting people to migrate to their networks, as they'll be plagued by teething problems for at least the first year," says our fortune teller. "There will be problems with handing over calls from 3G to GSM, lots of handset issues that the manufacturers are still grappling with like battery life, and compatibility problems between the networks. It will be the end of 2003 before any 3G network in Europe is functioning properly," and by that time potential customers may be reluctant to sign up to a provider that has been struggling with technical issues.

And what of Mr. Gates and his predicted foray into the world of handsets? "That will happen within a year, I think. It will make its own handsets using third-party manufacturers. It already has the operating system. Nokia Corp. [NYSE: NOK] is really worried about this. The thing about Microsoft is that it has so much cash, it could attack just about any sector. And look at the deals it has been making with the likes of AT&T Wireless Services Inc. [NYSE: AWE] and Deutsche Telekom AG [NYSE: DT], and its investment in KT [see AT&T, Microsoft Hit the Road and Microsoft Gets the DTs]. Microsoft is serious about mobile." Don't forget its plans for WLAN either, Kieran (see Microsoft Makes 802.11b Move ).

On the other hand, not everyone thinks Gates & Co. are going to do so hot in mobile (see Wakey Wakey, Microsoft!).

Either way, we'll try to remember to check back with Moynihan at the end of 2003, and if he has proved to be accurate, we might just get him to read our Palms [ed. note: though maybe not our joke books].

— Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung
www.unstrung.com
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