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Microsoft, Nokia link on mobile domain

Top computer, telecomm and handset companies agreed to jointly create a new Internet names registry that will issue domain names for wireless devices.
/ Source: Reuters

Nine top computer, telecoms and handset companies said on Wednesday they would jointly set up a new Internet names registry company to issue domain names for wireless devices, in an attempt to boost mobile services.

The new firm has to yet be approved by ICANN, which registers domain names for the Internet. The new firm will establish an as-yet-unnamed domain to simplify mobile access to the Internet, replacing the many addresses with the mobile equivalent of the .com domain.

The initiative brings together two unlikely bedfellows, top software company Microsoft and leading handset maker Nokia, rivals in the battle to make the software that runs mobile handsets. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

It also involves the world’s biggest mobile telecoms operator Vodafone and its competitors Orange, owned by France Telecom, and Hutchison Whampoa’s operator “3.”

U.S. computer makers Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard are also participating, as is South Korea’s Samsung Electronics and the GSM Association.

Officials told a conference call that an application would be placed with ICANN before a March 15 deadline, with a decision expected three to six months after that, allowing the new services to be up and running early next year.

An ICANN spokesman declined to comment on the status of the group’s application, but said that if a number of parties apply for a mobile telecommunications-related domain name, the approval process could take longer than a few months.

The group will have to prove to ICANN it has the technical expertise to distribute domain names, the basic function of which is to reliably demonstrate the new domains will appear on the Internet every time the address is typed into a Web browser, the ICANN spokesman said.

Companies that want to offer Web pages and other Internet services by using the new domain name would be asked to specifically design their services for usage on mobile devices, the alliance said.

Designing services for mobile devices is more challenging than for desktop computers because the screen sizes and computing power vary widely between the hundreds of different mobile models. The mish-mash of wireless technologies has hampered the take-off of mobile Internet services, a problem the alliance wants to tackle.

“(We want to) provide an opportunity for people to innovate and deliver new services to mobile customers that will be delivered in an understandable, dependable and reliable way,” Microsoft official Brian Arbogast told the call.

Research group Ovum applauded the efforts of the alliance to make it easier for consumers to type in keywords to access sites and services on mobile devices.

“This promises to be a better system than typing in long URLs and browsing through interminable pages on a slow connection,” Ovum analysts Eden Zoller and Jessica Figueras said in a note.

Other companies were invited to take part in the Ireland-based joint venture, the alliance said.