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Qualcomm, Microsoft team on streaming media

The deal is expected to be a boon for Microsoft, which has been struggling for a bigger share of the cell phone software market.

Qualcomm plans to integrate Microsoft Windows media technology into many of its cell phone chips, the companies said Thursday.

The move is expected to be a boon for both wireless streaming services and for Microsoft, which has been struggling for a bigger share of the cell phone software market.

The first line of Qualcomm chips to directly support Microsoft's streaming audio and video technologies will be available by March, the companies said.

Both Qualcomm and Microsoft assert that the arrangement will cut the time it takes to manufacture handsets that can receive streaming video and audio. The deal will also "drive continued market acceptance of wireless streaming audio and video content," according to Qualcomm.

Wireless streaming services represent an important new revenue source for carriers and handset makers. But such services have been slow to take off in the United States, where a fickle public prefers to use PCs for audio and video streaming. Streaming media to handsets has had more success in Europe and Asia, where handsets outnumber personal computers.

But with the advent of new, high-speed networks, carriers say the market is ripe for such services. Faster networks make for a more palatable video and audio experience on wireless devices, which are otherwise limited more or less to downloading 15-second video trailers or snippets of songs.

"The goal of this agreement is that high-quality video on mobile phones will soon provide the streaming video experience consumers get with their high-speed wired connections at home," John Stratton, chief marketing officer for Verizon Wireless, said in a statement. The carrier is a likely candidate to sell any handsets based on the new chips because it uses Qualcomm's CDMA technology and has a strong relationship with Microsoft.

For Microsoft, the deal is a major step toward getting its audio and video software into mobile phones ahead of rivals such as Apple Computer. So far, just Motorola and Japan's NEC have Microsoft's media decoders integrated into their handsets.

The deal is also expected to help spur sales of Microsoft's own cell phone operating system and help it catch up to rival Symbian, a company that is owned by major handset makers and sells the dominant cell phone operating system.