Microsoft to Launch Phones in France

Determined to break into the telecom market, Microsoft announced on Wednesday an agreement with France Telecom to develop products and services. Initially the two companies will work together on two projects, one for VoIP and the other a software project that would combine voice, video and data services.

At a press conference in Paris, Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer told reporters that "the first product would be available within a year," although his assessment may be a bit optimistic.

The VoIP project will involve the production of Microsoft-based phones that can act as a normal wireless phone when away from home. When the user returns home, the phone will switch to the user's home Internet network using Wi-Fi to make calls.

A similar service is in the process of being launched by BT in Britain, although the phone uses Bluetooth to connect to the Internet. However, BT recently said it plans to eventually incorporate Wi-Fi into the phone in the future.

The Microsoft software project could have several applications, including the addition of Web TV like features to televisions, or sending DVR content to a friend's cell phone. Both projects could take as long as two years to make it to the market.

France Telecom has worked with Microsoft in the past, and its cell phone arm, dubbed Orange, was the first to offer Microsoft smartphones back in 2002.

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