The MMIS release is supposed to allow companies to send enterprise application (ERP) information through firewalls to devices like WAP mobile phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs) for people on the move. Spokesperson Matt Warder said the first service to harness MMIS will be from Vodafone starting in July. But what’s important here is that this could signal the start of the real mobile revolution in manufacturing. The introduction will open the door to more sales force automation, mobile managers and executives and, importantly, also potentially roving production and machine personnel on the shopfloor – matching Microsoft’s successful investment to date in operating systems and devices for this level of support. And with Microsoft’s approach of ‘pile ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap’ we can expect significant new take-up, even if the firm is late to the market. Pricing is set in the US at $75 per seat for MIS with Outlook Mobile Access, and $15 per seat for MIS alone. Analyst AMR’s Dennis Gaughan says the first release of MIS is not as functionally complete as some of the competing platforms: “MIS lacks an integrated development tool and packaged adapters to enterprise applications,” he says. But its low price makes it attractive, he adds, “since enterprises are interested in pilot projects and the price makes it hard to look at mobile platforms costing up to $500,000.” He adds: “It is still too early to tell how far Microsoft has evolved its mobile strategy, but its presence changes the market.” Meanwhile, Microsoft’s quite separate formation of its World Wide Services division – mirroring IBM Global Services in effect – could also be important. For manufacturers it means contractual responsibility for enterprise scale implementations is owned by Microsoft in one place. With IT platforms that now scale well into the big system league, the .Net infrastructure, the Great Plains ERP acquisition and the newly aligned commercial services focus, it seems the software giant is moving to become more of an enterprise software provider selling complete solutions. Quite what its many ‘partner’ ERP organisations will think of it is another matter. As Peter Urban, analyst with AMR, says: “Microsoft’s move means that customers won’t have to deal with several vendors pointing to each other when problems arise on implementations… Microsoft’s new .Net technology has the potential for huge integration cost savings, but it is new, and will require guidance and a guarantee that it will work.”