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Microsoft eyes mobile work force

Redmond's investment in Laplink demonstrates the software titan's growing interest in technology for the mobile workers.

Microsoft has invested an undisclosed sum in Laplink Software and agreed to license some of Laplink's mobile-worker technology, the companies said Tuesday.

The investment gives Microsoft a minority stake in the 50-person company and demonstrates the software titan's growing interest in technology for the mobile work force, Microsoft said.

Laplink, a closely held company in Kirkland, Wash., makes programs that give people access, via the Internet, to their computer's files and e-mail messages, and to calendars on other machines. People can use the program, called Laplink Everywhere, to access information on desktop machines, laptops, handheld computers and some mobile phones. The service costs $8.95 a month.

"We think Laplink has good technology in the collaboration and mobile work force area," said Kenneth Lustig, managing director of intellectual-property acquisitions and investments at Microsoft. "Collaborating with Laplink could be beneficial to Microsoft as we develop more technology for the mobile work force."

Representatives from both companies declined to discuss exactly which Laplink technology Microsoft has agreed to license or the details of the arrangement.

Laplink, which has been in business for more than 20 years, has numerous ties to Microsoft. Laplink's chief executive and majority investor, Thomas Koll, is a former Microsoft vice president. In addition, Laplink licenses several Windows communications protocols, which helps Microsoft hold up its end of an antitrust settlement with the U.S. Justice Department.

In April, Laplink introduced a new version of its Everywhere product that supports Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol. The protocol is designed to reduce the hassle of providing remote access to Windows machines that are protected by firewalls. Laplink's products are also designed to work smoothly with various Microsoft programs, including the Internet Explorer Web browser and the Outlook e-mail and calendar system.

Laplink recently introduced a product called ShareDirect, a Windows add-on for setting up peer-to-peer file-sharing networks for businesses.