Microsoft Gets Pushy

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) made a splashy opening at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona today with several new initiatives and alliances built around mobile "push" email.

All are designed to compete directly with the popular Blackberry service from BlackBerry . (See Mobile Email Monoculture Fades.)

Unveiled in advance of Steve Ballmer's keynote tomorrow night, the Redmond, Wash., software giant is offering a free push email upgrade to Windows Mobile 5.0 as well as new devices from four different manufacturers, including the new iPAQ hw6900 handheld from HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ).

In related news, mobile email software provider Good Technology Inc. said today it will support mobile messaging on the new HP device, running on the Windows Mobile platform.

The market for mobile email is one of the hottest in enterprise telecommunications. RIM has enjoyed near-monopoly status since releasing the first Blackberry in 1998 but is seen as increasingly vulnerable because of its patent dispute with NTP, which could result in a shutdown of the Blackberry service. Numerous competing solutions that run on multiple devices and multiple software platforms are also snapping at its heels. (See Email Gets Open-Source Push and Supreme Court Rejects RIM.)

The Microsoft email solution will be offered as part of service packages from several carriers including Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), Cingular Wireless , and T-Mobile Netherlands BV. (See MSFT Pushes Email.)

Pushing its email solution as a less expensive alternative to Blackberry for enterprise customers, Microsoft also said it has partnered with Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN) to allow Windows Mobile to run on devices that use a single-core TI chipset. The Microsoft operating system has so far required a more expensive dual-core chipset.

Not all observers are convinced that the Microsoft initiatives constitute a serious threat to RIM's hegemony.

Noting that several software developers already offer Blackberry competitors, and that most Windows Mobile devices (including HP's iPAQ hw6900) will be more expensive than Blackberries, Merrill Lynch wireless analyst Vivek Arya said in a research note this morning that RIM's dominance is likely to continue, as many businesses await the deployment of critical business applications over mobile messaging devices.

"Lack of compelling applications, not cost, has been chief deterent to mass-enterprise-market adoption of mobile packet devices," writes Arya. "We disagree with Microsoft that cost has been the main reason preventing mass-enterprise-market adoption of mobile packet devices."

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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