Microsoft Releases OneApp for Feature Phones

Microsoft has released OneApp, an application that allows mobile devices other than smartphones to run applications such as Facebook, Twitter and Windows Live Messenger. Developers will be able to build apps for the software starting later in 2009. Microsoft has been rolling out mobile applications and a new version of its Windows Mobile operating system in a bid to compete against Apple, Google, Palm, and Research In Motion.

Microsoft made yet another foray into the mobile arena on Aug. 24 with the announcement of OneApp, mobile software that allows low-memory "feature phones" - i.e. devices that are not smartphones - to run applications such as Facebook, Twitter and Windows Live Messenger. The application is being targeted toward emerging markets where feature phones are more prevalent.

"We believe mobile technology plays a pivotal role in addressing people's everyday needs and creating new opportunities for local industry to grow," Amit Mital, corporate vice president of the Unlimited Potential Group and Startup Business Accelerator at Microsoft, said in a statement. "Microsoft OneApp will be able to help people do things they couldn't do before with their feature phone."

The OneApp application utilizes 150 KB of the phone's memory, and uses "cloud services that help offload processing and storage from the phone to the Internet, improving overall performance," according to Microsoft.

Applications for OneApp can be writing using JavaScript, XML and other standard languages; the developer kit should be available by the end of 2009.

Even as Microsoft focuses on the lower end of the mobile-device market, it has been encouraging developers for Windows Mobile to charge more than 99 cents for their mobile applications.

"We would definitely want to promote that you make more money selling applications than selling your application in a dollar store," Loke Uei, senior technical product manager for Microsoft's Mobile Developer Experience Team, told a gathering of mobile application developers in Redmond, Wash., on Aug. 19. "I think your app is worth more than that."

Microsoft opened its Windows Marketplace to developers on July 27, hoping to fill its ecosystem with 600 apps by the time Windows Mobile 6.5 launches in October 2009. With features including built-in Flash support and enhanced multi-touch capability, Mobile 6.5 is intended to help Microsoft compete more heartily against Apple, Palm and others already operating in the smartphone arena.

In addition to Windows Mobile 6.5, recent rumors have also suggested that Microsoft will produce a higher-end mobile operating system, Windows Mobile 7, in the fourth quarter of 2010. If those rumors prove true, Mobile 7 will include additional functionality designed to explicitly counter offerings on the iPhone and Palm Pre.

In addition to promoting its own mobile operating systems, Microsoft has allied with Nokia to port a mobile version of Microsoft Office onto Nokia smartphones, starting with the Eseries devices, which are enterprise-centric.

Although overall sales of mobile phones dropped by 6.1 during the second quarter of 2009, according to a report by research firm Gartner, the sales of smartphones increased by 27 percent during the same period. Microsoft's expansion into mobile applications and new versions of Windows Mobile is widely seen as Redmond's attempt to compete in the realms of mobile, unified communications and collaboration against a wide variety of opponents, including Apple and Research In Motion.