23 October 2002 Microsoft chairman Bill Gates has publicly acknowledged that his company is struggling in the mobile phone software market and is “way, way, way behind Nokia”.
His comments came a day after mobile operating system rival Symbian added South Korean electronics giant Samsung to its list of licensees, which also includes five of the world’s largest handset manufacturers. However, Nokia is Symbian’s most enthusiastic backer.
Samsung was the only major handset manufacturer committed to Microsoft’s Smartphone operating system. But in an interview published today, Gates told the Financial Times that Microsoft remains fully committed to its Smartphone software. He added that Microsoft has invested millions in its mobile software division and that Smartphone is “just now shipping to carriers”.
Reflecting this progress, Microsoft announced yesterday that Orange, the network operator group owned by France Telecom, had launched a mobile device based on its Smartphone operating system.
Nevertheless, Microsoft’s mobile software sales remain negligible. The company’s mobility division, which includes software for mobile devices and hand-held computers, registered sales of just $17 million (€17.4m) for the quarter to the end of September 2002.
But in an Infoconomy interview, Symbian CEO David Levin claimed that his company’s licensees now account for four-fifths of the mobile handset market and added that Microsoft’s apparent momentum was mere hype. Symbian is a consortium set-up by Psion and supported by most major handset manufacturers including Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola, Matsushita and Panasonic.
Meanwhile, Microsoft announced yesterday that it is to acquire Sunnyvale, California-based Vicinity, a supplier of location-based software and services, for $96 million (€98.2m).
Microsoft said that Vicinity would be merged with its MapPoint business Unit. The company’s MapPoint software platform is designed to help developers build applications for location-based services to run on mobile, and fixed Internet devices.