Microsoft continues to befriend non-Windows phones

A new application is designed to link low-end mobile phones to popular social-networking services like Twitter

Microsoft has launched OneApp, which allows cheaper phones from Nokia and Sony Ericsson to access social-networking services like Facebook, Twitter and Windows Live Messenger, the company announced Monday.

This is the second time this month that Microsoft targeted mobile phones that don't run its Windows Mobile operating system. On Aug.12 Microsoft and Nokia detailed an agreement that will bring Microsoft Office applications to Nokia handsets, which use the Symbian OS. OneApp will work on most low-end and mid-range phones that support Java, Microsoft said.

OneApp has client and server components. The 150K-byte client is installed on the phone.

A OneApp software developer kit is expected to be available by the end of the year.

With the OneApp launch, Microsoft takes aim at the emerging markets. Up to now, Microsoft's mobile efforts have been focused on the tiny population of privileged people with smartphones, but this opens up a channel to billions more subscribers, wrote Gartner analyst Nick Jones in a blog post on Tuesday.

Emerging markets are as important as mature markets. If you can get $US1 a month from a billion users it's a good business, he wrote.

Internet companies, mobile phone vendors and mobile operators are battling for the huge number of users who have never connected to the Internet, Jonathan Arber, senior research analyst at IDC, said in an interview. With OneApp, Microsoft is trying to get a leg up on the competition, he said.

OneApp debuting in South Africa is hardly a coincidence. The country is in the high-end of emerging markets, and can be used as a model for what will happen in other parts of the world, said Arber.

In South Africa, Microsoft is working with Blue Label Telecoms and their mibli service, and the company plans to launch OneApp in more countries within the next year, it said.

The fact that Microsoft has picked social-networking applications as a starting point doesn't come as a surprise. The growing popularity of Facebook and Twitter on mobile phones makes it a no-brainer, said Arber.

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