MWC: MSFT eyes mobile model for computing

BARCELONA–Microsoft has struck a deal with Russia’s MTS for the bundling of a laptop lease and wireless data subscription into one monthly bundle. Oddly enough that deal seems very similar to the way the cellular industry works: a cellphone is useless without a wireless connection and a wireless connection is pointless without a device to access it. That same logic now is starting to be applied to computing, an acknowledgement that the PC and the Internet are so closely tied together that they can’t be separated. So why not sell them together?

The benefits of such a business model for Microsoft are substantial. It would allow it to become an application service provider licensing its own software and collecting monthly revenues for connecting those applications to Web services. “The initial payback for us is that Vista is on all of the laptops,” said Michael O’Hara, general manager of Microsoft’s communications sector. “What it gives us in the future is the oppotunity to upsell e-mail, Office and Web conferencing.”

What makes that model more fascinating is it appears to run counter to the trends in the wireless industry today. There is a huge push for open access networks where the services, applications and devices are separated from the broadband connectivity itself. What Microsoft proposes for mobile computing is the wireless model we have today: the operator provides the phone, the apps and the services. Perhaps Microsoft is on to something, though. While many people will probably embrace open access in wireless, there are a lot of customers that are probably quite content with the access and services bundles their operators provide them.

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