Microsoft's message to RIM: Watch out
Software giant unveils mobile e-mail and other offerings to compete with the leader in the market, BlackBerry.

NEW YORK ( - Microsoft Corp. unveiled new services Monday that take aim at the lucrative mobile e-mail market dominated by Research in Motion's BlackBerry device.

Microsoft (Research) introduced four devices to be shipped with its new "push" e-mail function built in, the company said in a statement

Microsoft has not been able to cheaply and easily offer push e-mail, which has a message show up as soon as it is received. That has given Research in Motion (Research), which offers push e-mail on the BlackBerry, a competitive advantage.

Microsoft said its new services will use hardware made by cell phone and computer makers, including Hewlett-Packard (Research)'s new hand-held device dubbed the iPAQ hw6900.

In addition, several wireless service providers are launching services to allow customers to take advantage of Microsoft's push e-mail service, including Vodafone Group (Research), T-Mobile and Cingular Wireless, which BellSouth (Research) owns jointly with AT&T (Research), the software maker said.

"We're at the tipping point of seeing exponential growth in this area, with a number of factors coming together to make this happen -- from less costly and more varied devices to wider adoption of mobile data among mobile professionals," Pieter Knook, an executive at Microsoft's mobile technology division, said in a statement.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the story, said Microsoft hopes to attract customers to its mobile e-mail service by offering a lower price, particularly for corporate clients already using Microsoft's Exchange Server 2003 software for managing e-mail accounts.

But analysts told the Journal that while they expect Microsoft to rapidly gain market share in the mobile e-mail sector, they don't necessarily expect it to catch up with RIM's BlackBerry offerings anytime soon.

Microsoft still has "some issues in the functionality they can offer," Ben Wood, an analyst at technology research firm Gartner, told the Journal. "RIM's solution is richer in terms of some of the security and management features."

Even without the new competitive challenge from Microsoft, RIM has been under the gun as it battles a lawsuit from U.S. patent holding company NTP that could lead to a shutdown of most U.S. sales and service of BlackBerry.

RIM said last week it has an alternative technology to keep its BlackBerry devices running in the event of a court-ordered shutdown. (Full story).

For a Fortune's in-depth look at the wireless e-mail market, click hereTop of page

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