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Monday, February 8, 1999 Published at 15:34 GMT

Business: The Company File

Internet goes wireless

The Internet's future: communication and data transfer on the move

The Internet's future is wireless, say some of the top companies in the computer and telecoms industries who now have joined forces to provide people on-the-move with wireless data transfer.

Monday saw the arrival of two alliances: British Telecom (BT) teamed up with the world's largest software company Microsoft to agree on software standards, while Motorola and Cisco Systems said they would try to make the Internet accessible through wireless networks.

On the move

The initiative by Microsoft and BT is the latest shot in a escalating battle to attract corporate clients who want to use the Internet on the move, rather than be tied to their PCs. Potentially anybody from truckers to company executives will be able to get information when, and where, they need it.

The aim is to fully integrate the information flow within a company.

BT and Microsoft want to develop a range of wireless Internet and data services based on Windows CE - a slimmed-down version of Microsoft's operating system that can be be used in palmtop computers, mobile phones and household appliances.

They said trials would begin in the UK this spring, with services expected to become available in several countries by early next year.

As part of this agreement, BT will select Microsoft microbrowser technology for manufacturer's handsets.

Microsoft has already struck similar deals with telecoms provider Qualcomm in the United States. The alliance with BT allows the software giant to offer its technology to overseas customers, especially in the UK

In return, BT could transform itself into a provider of comprehensive telecoms and data services worldwide.

Uniting the wireless world

Motorola and Cisco Systems, meanwhile, said they had agreed to work together to extend the reach of the Internet to wireless communications.

They want toe spend up to one billion dollars over the next five years to create hardware and software standards that will make palmtop browsing as fast as hooking up your computer laptop and modem to a landline.

Don Listwin, executive vice president of Cisco Systems, said: "Cisco and Motorola are bringing a New World Internet platform to the wireless industry."

The ultimate aim will be to create an "Internet-based cellular infrastructure".

Cisco Systems is the world's largest provider of networking equipment for the Internet.

Battle of the standards

The deal between Microsoft and BT puts the two companies in a head-to-head contest with Psion, a British company that has beaten the US software giant in the hand-held computer market.

Last year, Psion linked up with mobile phone manufacturers Motorola, Nokia and Ericsson to form Symbian. The alliance was designed to rival Microsoft's Windows CE, which was developed for use in mobile phones, hand-held computers and household appliances.

It is unclear whether Motorola's new deal is a deal to the alliance or means that Symbian will be extended to include Cisco Systems.

The move prompted Microsoft's boss Bill Gates to proclaim that Psion represented the biggest threat to his business.

Psion is perceived to have the edge with its Epoc software, a multi-tasking 32-bit operating system that can host a raft of communications applications. However the group's shares tumbled 133.5p or more than 14% to 795p in early trading on the London Stock Exchange, on fears that a Microsoft-BT joint venture could provide a significant threat to its business.

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