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Microsoft makes move to wireless

Microsoft Corp. (http://www.microsoft.com) unveiled its much-anticipated application framework for mobile devices last week. The company officially launched its .NET Mobile Framework at the Microsoft Mobility Developer conference in New Orleans. This final version of the new app framework will ship with the upcoming Visual Studio .NET 2003 IDE.

During his conference keynote, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said the framework required a “significant” investment of his company’s resources in a market that “will be the fastest moving of all of our businesses.”

Gates said Microsoft designed the .NET Compact Framework to enable Visual Studio developers to begin building applications for mobile devices with little or no retraining. The Redmond, Wash.-based software maker expects that the estimated 7 million Visual Studio developers will deploy the new framework in next-generation wireless enterprise apps that can take advantage of Web services and rich offline data access.

According to Ed Kaim, product manager for the .NET Mobile Development Platform, Microsoft intends the .NET Compact Framework to serve as a catalyst for pushing Web services to mobile devices. “Web services are a key enabling factor in the mobile space,” Kaim told e-ADT, “because they enable the enterprise to extend its existing infrastructure to these small devices. [With the compact framework], it becomes a natural extension of their skills and infrastructure.”

Microsoft is promoting the new app framework with a big giveaway: some 24,000 Pocket PCs bundled with the .NET Compact Framework. The ViewSonic V37 devices will be given to developers who buy Visual Studio .NET and MSDN subscribers, Kaim said.

“This is our way of showing that we intend to give developers everything they need to be successful in the mobile enterprise,” Kaim said. “You figure, if there’s one developer in the enterprise who gets this Pocket PC and realizes that he or she is already trained to build apps for it, it’s going to have an effect.”

Microsoft also introduced the Windows Powered Smartphone Software Developer Kit (SDK), which includes an actual Smartphone device. The idea is to allow developers to see how their applications look on a smaller screen. During his keynote, Gates demoed a prototype of the .NET Compact Framework running on a device based on his company’s Smartphone software. The .NET programming software will be included with the next major version of the Smartphone operating system, Microsoft executives said.

“We want to help developers with all the different aspects of their activities such as tools to develop and test their applications and certification programs such as Mobile to Market, which is a complete catalog of all of these applications,” Gates said.

This was Microsoft’s first conference specifically for mobile developers, and it was timed to coincide with this year’s CTIA Wireless 2003 exhibition in New Orleans. According to estimates, the event drew an audience of 3,000 application developers and wireless industry representatives.

The .NET Mobile Framework has actually been available to a small group of beta users since October last year. “We were going to wait for this official launch,” Kaim explained, “but we had a really strong demand from our beta customer group -- companies that had made huge bets on us early on and we didn’t really want to say ‘no’ to. They said, ‘hey, we built these apps and we’re ready to go with them, and we want to start deploying.’” To accommodate these early adopters, Microsoft set up its Go Live licensing program in December. A Go Live license allowed them to begin deploying their apps for internal use.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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