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Microsoft demos Windows Live for mobile

Shown off at the 3GSM conference in Barcelona

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gave the first public demonstration of some Windows Live for Mobile services at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona yesterday.

Windows Live is the brand under which Microsoft is pulling together a range of personal, web-based services. Some are new and some are updated versions of services it already offers, such as Hotmail or MSN Messenger.

One new service is Windows Live Mobile Search with local search, designed to return results relevant to a particular location. From the stage in Barcelona, Ballmer showed how he could use a mobile phone to find a map to locate a bar – in London. A beta version of the local search service is already available for users in the US, while the UK beta version demonstrated by Ballmer will be available today.

Microsoft is investing time and money in mobile search. On Monday, the company announced its acquisition of French software company MotionBridge, which develops search tools for mobile network operators.

"The acquisition of MotionBridge is really significant," said Bena Roberts, wireless analyst at Current Analysis. "Mobile search technology is becoming a big issue with mobile operators."

Ballmer also showed the soon-to-be-released Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile software running on a smartphone and linked over the air to a computer running Office Live Communications Server. Using the software's presence notification function to find a colleague online, Ballmer then placed a VoIP (voice over IP) call to that person from the smartphone. The company expects to offer Live Communications Server users a version of Communicator Mobile for download within about two months.

With such services, Microsoft aims to offer mobile workers access to some of the same features they use at their desks. Key to this is the ability to synchronise data stored on the mobile device and the desktop computer, a feature that Ballmer showed off by demonstrating a function of the Windows Visa operating system due for release later this year.

Windows Mobile Device Center will enable synchronisation of data, contacts, pictures and music.

Ballmer also took time to demonstrate some new mobile phones on display at the show that contain Microsoft's Direct Push email delivery software. Among them were HP's iPaq hw6900 Mobile Messenger and Asustek's ASUS P305 smartphone for 3G (third-generation) mobile networks.


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