Microsoft, Vodafone Make Mobile Web Services Push

The companies' goal is to add mobile Web services to applications and see the PC world merge with the mobile world.

LOS ANGELES—Microsoft Corp. and Vodafone Group plc. Wednesday expanded on a relationship the two entered into earlier this month and delivered a technical roadmap on how the two companies will add mobile Web services to applications and push to merge the PC world with the mobile world.

In an interview with eWEEK at Microsofts Professional Developers Conference here, John Maffei, director of Microsofts Platform Strategy Group, said the roadmap addresses things like adding mobile security and billing services to applications, as well as location and messaging services.

"It talks about how to go about taking on work with Web services security and other specifications in the Web services roadmap and how to map that to mobile Web services," he said.

In addition, Maffei said the strategy, first announced at the International Telecommunications Unions Telecom World 2003 conference in Geneva earlier this month, is targeted at expanding opportunities for application developers and mobile network operators.

In fact, Maffei said Vodafone is set to announce a developer contest for people who write applications that leverage mobile Web services.

"What were doing is trying to leverage the work being done in both spaces so we can help developers merge the idea of PC and mobile applications" working together in a Web services architecture, Maffei said.

"Guys who used to be just PC developers start to understand the mobile space more, and that opens up the world of opportunity to go mobile development," he said.

"There are millions of guys doing Visual Studio .Net development. Wouldnt it be nice to add mobile to the mix?" Maffei said.

At the PDC, Charles Fitzgerald, general manager of platform strategies at Microsoft, told eWEEK the Vodafone deal says, "Lets use existing tools and infrastructure and not reinvent the wheel."

Maffei said Microsofts relationship with Vodafone in the mobile Web services space is similar to the software giants relationship with IBM on Web services overall, in that with IBM, Microsoft has shepherded many of the key Web services specifications through to adoption by developers and by standards organizations. Microsoft hopes to do much the same thing with Vodafone in the area of mobile Web services, Maffei said.

"We like the model," he said. "Were calling a workshop in January in London, and were looking for feedback from the industry on this. Its not just Microsoft and Vodafone" doing all the work, he said.

Adding payment services to the world of Web services is a key obstacle to overcome. "If you think about the billing system today, the best examples of implementing billing come from the mobile and wireless guys—the phone companies," Maffei said. "So if Im an application provider and I want to provide you a service, one of the best ways to charge for that is to add that to your mobile bill."

To that effect, Maffei said the companies are considering the use of a dongle that would serve as an identification mechanism to give users access to mobile Web services and facilitate billing.

Fitzgerald said mobile Web services will drive convergence of PC and mobile applications and services, and deliver new integrated services. Right now, the two worlds are disparate, he said. "And theyre also disparate in the way software gets built, with different development communities," Fitzgerald said.

Officials at both companies said other benefits of the companies efforts include ensuring the availability of a homogeneous platform or software that is both PC and mobile device neutral, giving developers the ability to produce applications that go across a range of devices.

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