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Microsoft expands mobile program

The company plans to announce the expansion of its program for partner companies that create hardware and software for its mobile products.

Microsoft plans to announce Wednesday the expansion of its program for partner companies that create hardware and software for its mobile products.

Microsoft's Mobility Group products include its Pocket PC 2002 handheld operating system and Smartphone 2002 OS.

Microsoft has picked about 110 of its 5,000 partner companies, including hardware and software developers, to become part of its new Mobility Partner Advisory Council. These companies will pay $15,000 for a six-month membership in the group, which gives them early access to a software developer kit and tools, allowing them to get a jump start on getting products to market.

One measure of an operating system is the number of applications and developers that support it. Microsoft aggressively promotes its platforms and cultivates relationships with developers.

Among the companies in the council are Compaq Computer, Hewlett-Packard, SAP, PeopleSoft, Siebel Systems, J.D. Edwards and Synchrologic.

Council members will get dedicated technical assistance and will be able to participate with Microsoft in trade show events. Members of the council will also be included in the Microsoft Global Partner Program, which includes more than 750,000 developers for other Microsoft products, including Windows XP and .Net. The council will meet once a month to get updates on strategy and road maps for upcoming products from Microsoft's Mobility Group.

Mary Rose Becker, a marketing manager for the Mobility Group, said that the pool of partner companies has been growing at a rate of 200 to 300 per month.

The Mobility Group has been receiving more attention since Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer began overseeing the group late last year. Vice presidents Juha Christensen and Ben Waldman, who lead the group, report to Ballmer. Former Mobility director Phil Holden is now a director with the MSN group and former Mobility general manager Rogers Weed is now a vice president in the PC Experience group.