Microsoft pushes into a crowded mobile market

Microsoft (MSFT) has always had aspirations to be one of the premier providers of mobile software. It has been trying to push into the business for years, without much success.

The incumbent Symbian software has held its own. More recently, Apple (AAPL) has entered the field. So has Google (GOOG), with its Android platform. Several other mobile operating systems are also trying to stake claims on the business.

There is a lot at stake. About one billion new handsets are sold each year. Not all of these are smartphones, which need operating systems and complete software. But as the mobile device starts to replace many of the functions of the PC and multimedia players, the market for sophisticated phones will grow.

According to the The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft is about to move deeper into the smartphone OS battle. "The Redmond, Wash., company's new operating system, Windows Mobile 6.5, is designed to incorporate enhancements that are becoming common on sophisticated smart phones, such as better Web browsing and the ability to easily operate touch-sensitive screens."

There have been news accounts that Microsoft will partner with handset giant LG to offer its software on the Korean company's smartphones.

Microsoft needs its mobile strategy to work. Its presence on the PC is being hurt by the poor reception of its Vista OS and moves to server side computing and open source products like Linux. The world's largest software company brings in most of its revenue from PC-based Windows and its business products. As competition erodes those businesses, there are only a few large markets to attack to expand Microsoft's revenue base.

With several other companies taking advantage of head starts in the mobile field. Microsoft may have to buy its way into getting handset firms to use its products.

Redmond has done that before in other fields. It needs to hope that the tactic will work again.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.

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