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Big Bang Alliance with Microsoft Creates Universe of Software Alternatives

Responding to Japanese customer demand for mobile solutions based on its .NET server line, Microsoft Corp. announced a business alliance with Big Bang Systems Corp. this week. The deal will enable Microsoft to offer its customers an alternative until Mobile Information Server 2001 becomes available.

Mobile Information Server is slated for general availability in the United States, Asia and Europe sometime during the first half of 2001, but the initial release is not going to provide Japanese support. This did not bode well with Microsoft’s Japanese customers.

When asked to comment about the reasons for the deal, a Microsoft spokesperson said: “Microsoft’s Exchange customers in Japan are asking for an immediate solution for delivering Exchange Server data via mobile/wireless access to various kinds of Japanese local devices. The initial release of Microsoft's Mobile Information Server was not going to provide for a Japanese solution so we chose to join forces with the best partner in wireless technology of this sort out in the Japanese market today -- BBS. Releasing a v.1 version of MIS in Japan would be our preference but it also just wasn't reality for getting to the market quickly because of the uniqueness of the Japanese airlinks, mark-up languages and language in general, so we made a calculated call to hit the US, the rest of Asia and Europe first and wait with Japan for a later release of MIS. This BBS partnership will allow us to have the best of both worlds and have strong presence worldwide.”

Because Big Bang already offers ExLook for Exchange, a software offering that enables access from mobile devices to the Microsoft Exchange Server client-messaging and groupware, the partnership makes perfect sense for Microsoft. Together, the two companies will work together promoting the integration of ExLook and Exchange Server.

While Microsoft will be promoting Big Bang’s EXLook solution, it is also paving the way for the future adoption of its own mobile solution. Through the alliance, a migration path from EXLook to Information Server 2001 will be available in future releases.

Dwight Davis, vice-president and practice director of Summit Strategies, sees the move as an indication that Microsoft is starting to feel some heat from both its customers and competitors.

“It strikes me that this is clear evidence that Microsoft is feeling the pressure to have some sort of wireless offering in place,” says Davis. “It also suggests that we may be waiting a while for Microsoft Mobile Information Server 2001 to become available.”

The problem, he continued, is that Microsoft is lagging behind in the wireless race. “Their core competitors are all ahead of the game. Oracle, IBM, and others all have wireless offerings in place,” he says. “Microsoft doesn’t have anything besides a strategic plan in place.”

Looking ahead, the Microsoft spokesperson says there are no partnerships in the works right now to provide a mobile alternative for U.S. customers who are awaiting the release of Mobile Information Server 2001.

“With the exception of the existing strategic partnership with Wireless Knowledge in the US, there is no reason to form a business alliance of this sort in the US because Mobile Information Server will be shipping within the first part of next year and will provide all mobile phones with access to both Exchange 5.5 and Exchange 2000 servers,” said Microsoft’s spokesperson. “Microsoft is working with a large number of ISVs who are building solutions to complement Mobile Information Server --- while these relationships are not in depth business partnerships --- they are nevertheless strategic in that they will showcase the breadth of the Mobile Information Server's ability as a mobile application server and a platform for mobile-enabling data of all kinds beyond just Exchange server.” – Jim Martin

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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