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MS Hops on Hotspot Hoopla

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) is attempting to promote the latest rebranding of its handheld operating system by tapping into the hoopla (and some would say hype) surrounding wireless LAN hotspot services.

The software giant has today inked a deal with Boingo Wireless Inc., T-Mobile USA, and Wayport Inc. to promote upgrades to the renamed Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket OS (Windows Mobile for short) designed to make it easier for users to find and connect to 802.11 hotspots.

The service providers will offer customers who purchase a Windows Mobile device between June 23 and August 23 thirty days free access to their combined network of more than 3,500 hotspots in the U.S.

Easy access to wireless LAN is one of the new features available in this release of the software. However, what is more notable is that this is the third major rebranding of Microsoft's mobile operating system since the code was originally launched in November 1996.

Back in the day, the stripped-down code was called Windows CE. However, this was changed to Pocket PC in April 2000, a reflection of Microsoft's desire to dominate the digital assistant market. This was followed by a wireless-oriented version of the product -- the Smartphone OS (codenamed Stinger) in the spring of 2002. Microsoft has now spent twelve months working with the Kellogg School of Management [ed. note: which can be a bit flaky] and decided that it wants to rebrand all of its software pieces as Windows Mobile, because customers associate the brand with a "familiar and trusted experience".

Whatever.

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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