Mobility dominates Bill Gates keynote

Bill Gates took centre stage at Telecom World 2003 yesterday to tell a packed auditorium that Microsoft aims to equip...

Bill Gates took centre stage at Telecom World 2003 yesterday to tell a packed auditorium that Microsoft aims to equip enterprises, carriers and individuals with technology to bridge the PC and mobile worlds more easily, efficiently and, above all, securely.

Microsoft's chairman and chief software architect zeroed in on what has clearly emerged as the main theme of the Geneva show - mobility. His message was that software is vital to bridge the PC and mobile worlds. And Microsoft, which spends several billion  dollars a year on research and development, will invest heavily in mobility software platforms.

Gates pointed to the agreement Microsoft has made with Vodafone Group to help create tools for programmers to develop applications for both PCs and mobile devices.

The goal is for developers to use existing web services technologies, such as XML, to link the mobile and computing worlds. But they require new mobile web services specifications which describe, for example, how a GSM network's authentication system exchanges data with a PC application using web services security protocols, Microsoft officials said.

Microsoft will unveil a road map for the specifications later this month at its developers conference. It will also hold workshops for developers. Information about the joint initiative with Vodafone is available at: www.microsoft.com/mobilewebservice/

Greater bandwidth capacity, both on fixed and wireless networks, will help telecom companies provide a wealth of new services, such as real-time conferencing, imaging and interactive TV,  Gates said. He made a pitch for the company's new software that will allow cable and telecommunication operators to deliver new and existing TV services over broadband Internet connections.

The prototype software, which Microsoft is calling an Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) delivery system, is being shown here at the Geneva show.

Squeezing in a word about security - widely seen as the company's Achilles' heel - Gates said Microsoft will continue to invest heavily in designing software that can avoid attacks, including unsolicited e-mail, which is now becoming a problem in the mobile environment.

Gates showcased several other mobile software developments announced at the show, including enhancements to Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 operating systems to improve Wi-Fi access.

With its new WPS (Wireless Provisioning Services) technology, Microsoft aims to help business and private users connect to wireless Lan hotspots more easily and securely, as well as telecommunication operators to provision and manage these networks more simply and cost-efficiently.

WPS technology consists of two components: server software used by telecommunication service providers in the back end; and client software installed on notebooks or other mobile devices.

Users of handsets with Microsoft's Windows Mobile 2003 software for Smartphones are generating higher volumes of data traffic, resulting in new revenue streams for mobile operators, according to Gates.

Microsoft has added several enhancements to software running in the new SPV E200 handset, he said, introduced by the UK subsidiary Orange last week.

John Blau writes for IDG News Service

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