Microsoft and communications giant AT&T announced early this morning a strategic alliance that aims to simplify the way corporations provide integrated wireless data services to their customers. Under terms of the agreement, the companies have been codeveloping end-to-end solutions for Pocket PCs, Smartphones, and laptops, giving customers wireless access to email, information, and applications from behind corporate firewalls. These solutions have been in the works for months and are almost complete. AT&T also has agreed to carry new Microsoft .NET location-based mobile services on its wireless network, using Microsoft MapPoint .NET mapping and location services and the Microsoft .NET Compact Framework.
 
"Today's workers often do business far from the office, which is why they need access to information any time, any place, and on any device," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in an early Wednesday conference call. "Not only will mobile workers and their companies benefit from this alliance, but developers will quickly discover that smart devices, high-speed wireless networks and .NET technologies are powerful building blocks for future innovation. Working with AT&T Wireless, I'm confident that we will create the best wireless data solutions for today's corporations."

The announcement puts the spotlight on Microsoft's resurgent Windows Powered devices, such as the Pocket PC and Smartphone 2002, which are based on Windows CE technologies. To bolster the product line, AT&T will ship a voice-enabled Windows Powered PDA that uses Microsoft's new Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition software. The device, which will ship later this year, will include integrated support for the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM)/General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) voice and data calling capabilities. The device also will include Pocket PC-like features such as a color screen; access to contacts, calendar, and email inbox; a Web browser; and support for digital media content. AT&T will also sell cellular phones running Microsoft Windows Powered Smartphone 2002 software. Microsoft and AT&T will launch these products and services in fourth quarter 2002.