Microsoft and Qualcomm Build WirelessKnowledge

It's the day you've been waiting for. You have tickets to the best game in town and you're finally taking a break after administering data networks all week long. Suddenly, your pager goes off and displays that you have an urgent e-mail. Going back to the office or your laptop at home means leaving the game. If you had a handheld or cell phone wirelessly connected to your network, you wouldn’t have to move from your seat. You would be able to read the e-mail, and send one back there in the stadium.

This vision of connectivity is taking shape in the wireless networking industry. Microsoft Corp. and Qualcomm Inc. ( teamed up to create an equally owned enterprise called WirelessKnowledge L.L.C. (, with the goal of converging wireless and computing technologies.

The idea was born at Qualcomm about a year ago, according to Tom Clarkson, vice president of sales and marketing for WirelessKnowledge, but the company needed a platform to put its data on. That's when they called on Microsoft. That action could cause concern in the market because many believe putting Microsoft in the driver's seat means only Windows passengers will be allowed on board.

"They do that and they're dead," says Bruce Kasrel, senior analyst at Forrester Research ( "If this was a proprietary system, people wouldn't want it."

Joanne Coleman, director of marketing at Qualcomm, is quick to point out that the platform will be just a platform, not an operating system. "It's an open system that is technology-agnostic and license-agnostic," she says. "Obviously, the services will be made available for others to use." Coleman says everyone will be able to benefit from the technology, and the two companies just want to push the infrastructure for global use.

Kevin Dallas, Microsoft’s Windows CE group product manager, says the solution will be based on Internet standards, and Microsoft's main goal is to make sure the services scale across all devices, including handhelds, cell phones and laptops. Dallas did say, however, the first phase is to get the system commercially available on the Exchange system. The second phase will be to access other groupware, he says.

As for security, the data networks are separate from the voice networks, so there is no worry about a total crash, WirelessKnowlege’s Clarkson explains. He says security depends on the device. On a PC, there are end-to-end security models; some e-mail clients on handhelds have built in security and some don't; and cell phone browsers will use encryption from RSA Data Security Inc. ( "Once you reach our network operating center, we use VPN security techniques. So the worst case is that you might pick up a virus on the client device," Clarkson says.

Forrester's Kasrel says one characteristic that could drive WirelessKnowledge's acceptance will be ease-of-use. To this end, Kasrel says groupware, like Exchange, will have to be smart in parsing e-mail so most of the gibberish in messages, such as long headers and signatures, are parsed out.

The environment will also have to be user friendly. "We cannot rely on people changing their e-mail habits for this," Kasrel says. He points out that implementing Windows CE would only hurt this process. "Windows CE is not the cure for everything. There are many apps where CE is not appropriate, and I commend Microsoft for recognizing that."

WirelessKnowledge's Clarkson says customers can expect to see offerings based on this technology from their wireless carriers by the second or third quarter next year.