Microsoft launches OneApp/Mibli for mobile Internet in South Africa with Blue Label Telecoms

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Blue Label Telecoms is touting its partnership with Microsoft as a potentially lucrative source of income, with them jointly launching a service that lets people with low-end cellphones use Internet applications on the small screen.

Blue Label CEO Mark Levy last week said his company had worked with Microsoft for 18 months to create Mibli, a service designed for the masses in developing nations.

Mibli can be downloaded to a cellphone to let people run applications including Facebook, twitter and instant messaging services. Local software developers will be encouraged to create new applications or games to run through the system.

Mibli and Microsoft's OneApp software are free to download and come with more than a dozen applications, including a mobile wallet.

It will be aimed at users whose phones can connect to basic data services and install applications, but have limited memory and processing power. The system keeps the processing and storage burden off the phone and on the Internet, so only a very small piece of software is stored on the handset itself.

The software will let people do things they could not do before, including paying bills or diagnosing their health issues, and will provide a better mobile experience for millions of people who want to do more with the handset they already own, the companies say. It also uses data networks very efficiently, to lower the bills incurred by accessing online data.

"When people saw their normal phone running these fancy applications their eyes lit up," said Microsoft's senior director of mobile product management, Tim McDonough. "What we're letting you do is get access to the applications and services you want from a device you already own. If you don't have a PC, your phone may be your only computing device."

The US software giant owns 11,99% of Blue Label Telecoms, which it bought just before the company listed in 2007 for about R560m. As well as buying a stake, Microsoft wants to sell its products, services and advertising through Blue Label's network of point-of- sale devices in emerging markets, with the companies sharing the revenue that generates.

Business Day