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4/1/2005
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Microsoft Readies "BlackBerry Killer"

Forthcoming Windows Mobile Upgrade, code-named Magneto, will push E-mail to pocket PCs, smartphones. Microsoft's forthcoming Windows Mobile upgrade, code-named Magneto, is designed to be a BlackBerry killer, said sources familiar with the ambitious plan.

Microsoft's forthcoming Windows Mobile upgrade, code-named Magneto, is designed to be a BlackBerry killer, said sources familiar with the ambitious plan.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant is on track to freeze the Windows Mobile 2005 ROM code in April and provide new technology in Exchange 2003 Server Pack 2 that will push e-mail out to mobile workers who use Pocket PCs and smartphones.

Sources told CRN that Microsoft will unveil its Magneto plan at the Mobile and Embedded Developers Conference 2005 next month in Las Vegas.

Microsoft decided to freeze the code and have it in mobile operators' hands in June or July so that the next generation of devices is ready for the fall and holiday season, said a source close to the company.

Magneto will lead the charge to a more comprehensive mobile strategy, sources said.

"Microsoft aims to kill BlackBerry," said one source familiar with the plans. "Every corporate type has a BlackBerry, and they all have Outlook. What is the cost going to be to RIM server when Exchange Service Pack and Magneto come out and they're not priced? Microsoft is giving it away for free."

Sources said more than 25 independent device manufacturers and ISVs are heavily backing the Magneto release of Windows Mobile, a major architectural revamp of Microsoft's mobile platform that will unify what are now separate implementations of Windows CE for the Pocket PC and smartphone.

That, combined with the push technology in Exchange 2003 Server SP2, will be a major advance. Microsoft recently licensed its ActiveSync technology to competitors to make Exchange the push server engine of choice. ActiveSync 4.0 is due with .Net Compact Framework 2.0 in Visual Studio 2005.

"Microsoft is losing out to the BlackBerry tremendously. These devices [have] flooded the financial community," said Robert Tedesco, CTO of Resolute, a partner in Bellevue, Wash.

"What Microsoft is facing is a hardware issue," said Chris Menegay, founder of Dallas-based Notion Solutions. "Most people use their laptop and a phone," he said. "You can't type on a Pocket PC."

But that, too, is changing. Sources said HP, Motorola, Samsung and others now are developing new smartphones with keyboards such as BlackBerry's Qwerty keyboard and larger displays.

"Microsoft is finally making it like a BlackBerry with the ability to push live content out from the server, and a presence-enabled phone book so you can use a contact list on the phone," another source said. "Now you can control it one-handed with support for a keyboard."

Magneto offers a new user interface with support for high-resolution graphics, improved video support via Windows Media 10, better keyboard support, enhanced Word and Excel with charts, Pocket MSN, as well as adding Wi-Fi support for smartphones and persistent memory to Pocket PC code, bringing the two in line.

Beyond that, Microsoft is at work on a more feature-rich upgrade of Windows Mobile, code-named Photon, with efforts to vastly extend the battery life.

The unification of the Windows CE platforms in Magneto and the unification of the .Net Compact Framework 2.0 with Visual Studio 2005 signify a major advance in Microsoft's mobility platform, which has lagged.

Microsoft declined to comment, except to confirm that plans are under way for Magneto.

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