Microsoft OneApp to provide internet services to low-end mobile phones in Africa

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OneApp, a new Microsoft platform, provides access to most Internet services – Facebook, Windows Live Messenger, online payment – without necessarily changing an older or less efficient mobile phone for a more recent one. Monday, South Africa was named as the first country to test the new service. The exercise, according to Microsoft, will be extended to other emerging countries.

Great news for users of low-end and limited-function mobile phones in developing countries. There is, henceforth, no need to discard lesser phones for the smarter and pricier ones that have proved themselves as a real force on the small computer market. There is also no need to wait for the arrival of a third generation (3G) telephone infrastructure to gain access the Internet via mobile phones. Monday, Microsoft unveiled OneApp, a new platform that is expected to stretch the limits of “ordinary” mobile phones beyond their core applications; phone calls, listening to music and entertainment. OneApp is to be tested in South Africa. The project, when completed, will offer users some of the state of the art Internet applications currently in vogue: Facebook, Twitter, Windows Live Messenger and RSS feeds. Users can also pay their bills directly and receive health diagnosis via the same service.

Internet on “ordinary” mobile phones

Taking up little storage space, i.e; 150 kb, the newly designed OneApp will considerably economise bandwidth. The application is also compatible with outdated (second-generation, 2G) networks, most of which can be found in developing countries. Microsoft achieved this performance by using “cloud computing” system, thereby reducing the required memory space. With OneApp, applications like Facebook or Twitter only weigh 30 kb, thus enabling limited-function phones to access them.

Blue Label Telecom, a South African mobile phone provider, which has partnered with Microsoft’s OneApp for the initial tests, is expected to offer the application free of charge to its customers. Microsoft OneApp plans to extend the service into other southern hemisphere countries by next year. Meanwhile, Nokia at the beginning of the year launched OVI, a portal that allows for the creation of email accounts directly from mobile phones without the help of a computer, in emerging countries. Six months after its launch, OVI has recorded one million accounts worldwide,.

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