: Give peace a chance.
In what's shaping up to be a sign of coexistence between the two heated combatants in the global mobile-handset arena, both have agreed to get in bed on a newgigantic umbrella organizing body, dubbed the Open Mobile Alliance onwireless data.
The new organization, made up of a blue ribbon panel of carriers,technology providers and handset manufacturers including
, is designed to help bring a sort of global-tech lingua franca tothe Tower of Babel in the wireless data business.
The goal is to create aframework through which companies will be able to create technology,devices and services that are interoperable worldwide, something that hasremained a challenge for some time.
If successful, two cell-phone users on opposite sides of the globe would be able to send data to each other regardless of carrier or region.
It's an industry first, bringing Nokia and Mister Softee under one roof,but it's one fraught with uncertainties. Since last year, the two have been circling each other in the next-generation handset ring,proselytizing for the virtues of their competing handset-operatingsystems. The major handset manufacturers, including Nokia,
, are intent on protecting what they view as their control of how consumers communicate.
Microsoft, the wireless arenagate-crasher, also has designs on the handset market, seeing it as anextension of its personal computing hegemony.
The roar reached a crescendo last November at the annual Comdex meeting, when Nokia ChiefExecutive Jorma Ollila used the keynote as a pulpit for advancing the Nokiaworld view by announcing the formation of an organizing body similar to theone announced Tuesday.
In his speech, Ollila alsomentioned plans to license Nokia's version of the Symbian operatingsystem, called the Series 60. But perhaps more important was theannouncement of an organizing body called theOpen Mobile Architecture initiative, also composed of a panel of handset andtechnology competitors, excepting the Redmond, Wash., software giant. The move waswidely regarded as the first public missive against Microsoft, sayobservers.
The decision Tuesday to not only bring Microsoft to the table, butcombine a smorgasbord of parallel initiatives, such as the Wireless VillageIntiative devoted to instant messaging, the MMS Interoperability Group andSyncML, stems from a desire to squeeze profit to offset the billions incapital expenditures dumped on third-generation networks and the licensesspent on bidding for the spectrum.
But mostly it's out of desperation. Since the beginning of theyear, Nokia has seen its shares halved as wireless stocks have lost favoramong investors and on Wall Street. Once a growth engine helping to fuelthe tech stock market boom, wireless stocks have taken a massive hit, ascompanies continue to reduce expectations quarter by quarter. In thepast five quarters, Nokia has had to reduce forecasts four times.Global handset-sales volume, once projected to be more than 600 million by theend of this year, has been reduced to around 385 million, nearly on parwith last year's volume.
Analysts were cautious about the significance of the latestconsortium, perhaps numbed by a litany of promises by the industry in thepast.
"To me this is kind of not as big a news event as it may have seemedat first glance," says Bryan Prohm, wireless analyst at The Gartner Group.
While "any efforts to create a more unified approach in standardization isgreat,
there's been more divergence than convergence" in the work so far.Privately, other Wall Street observers joked that the so-called "wirelessWeb" is little more than an oxymoron.
For its part, Microsoft has found some reason to put aside itsdifferences, if only for a moment.
"Now we're taking a seat at the head ofthe table in working to drive
the wireless standard in a significant way thatcould impact mobile users," said Ed Suwanjindar, product manager of theMobility Group at Microsoft. "We are cautiously optimistic about the newendeavor, but it's a significant step."