Microsoft, AT&T court big business

The software maker and AT&T Wireless unveil a suite of software and services designed to provide wireless access to e-mail and data behind corporate firewalls.

Microsoft and AT&T Wireless are looking to meet the needs of large businesses that are arming their employees with wireless products.

The companies on Tuesday announced AT&T Wireless Workware, a suite of software and services designed to give corporate workers wireless access to e-mail and data that reside behind corporate firewalls. The suite can be used on a variety of devices, from notebooks to handhelds.

As expected, the companies also announced a new handheld device, the Siemens SX56, which uses Microsoft's Pocket PC Phone Edition operating system and offers access to GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) voice and data wireless networks. The companies also said that HP Services is the preferred partner to integrate the suite into a business's existing network.

The two companies struck a deal in July to get Microsoft software onto new devices and to simplify access to corporate information over wireless systems. At the time, the two companies were in the late stages of product development and were said to be ready to deliver devices using Microsoft's Pocket PC Phone Edition software in the fourth quarter.

The deal is part of Microsoft's ongoing effort to sell big businesses on its wireless software and operating systems. The Redmond, Wash.-based company is also using its position as the dominant maker of software for desktop PCs and servers to reassure companies that using Microsoft wireless software for handheld devices will make for an easier implementation than the software of its rivals because companies are already familiar with Microsoft software.

Microsoft is laying the groundwork for widespread takeup of devices using its software with agreements like the one with AT&T, according to Microsoft spokesman Ed Suwanjindar.

"The significance of this program is to deploy devices en masse," said Suwanjindar. "We want to extend our framework to make it easier and more cost-effective to use our software."

AT&T Wireless will sell the Siemens device directly to corporations, but also to consumers and small businesses through retail stores. The device will sell for $549.99 with a mail-in rebate.

AT&T Wireless has said in the past that is working to bring to market a device using Microsoft's Smartphone 2002 operating system by the middle of next year.

Microsoft is also working with Verizon Wireless, VoiceStream, Sprint PCS, mm02 and Vodafone to bring its software to wireless devices.

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