Analyst Gartner has warned that, without a concerted effort by Symbian and its backers, Microsoft will sweep them aside in the smartphone business.
Redmond's ability to offer standardised handsets which are easier for businesses to support and use will help the software giant win corporate approval, the market watcher predicted.
Nick Jones, vice president and research fellow at Gartner, said that, while Microsoft did not have a good corporate smartphone today, he believed it would do by the end of 2004.
The analyst predicted that Microsoft will ship a phone boasting strong integration of a range of packages, such as Exchange and Outlook.
Symbian, he added, needed to resolve a number of issues to be a credible, corporate alternative. Its platform and menus differ slightly on various handsets, which means that they often do not have the same user interface.
"Symbian is not very committed to fixing this problem. So Microsoft is getting stronger and Symbian is not addressing the corporate market," explained Jones.
"This is unattractive for chief information officers. They need standard systems and that's what Microsoft will provide.
"If by the end of next year Symbian hasn't solved its problems, Microsoft will be a very strong competitor for a standard corporate smartphone.
"Symbian could lose the battle and at the moment I'd have to say it will probably happen."
During his keynote session at the Gartner Symposiunm ITxpo in Cannes, Jorma Ollila, chairman and chief executive at Nokia, pointed out that Microsoft had originally promised to ship a smartphone in 2000.
"We have worked with Microsoft over the last four years with varying results. We've made progress in some areas but in others they have views that differ. They will have a role [but] we don't see Microsoft as a danger," he said.
Ollila accepted that the drive towards mobile standards for Bluetooth and Java had been tough, but predicted that they would arrive within 12 to 18 months.
It was a "safe bet" that roaming issues with GPRS would also be resolved in that timescale, he added.
"Standardisation processes are something we are getting a better grip of. Everyone recognises that it's a real issue, and as an industry we're working on it," said Ollila.
"Java isn't well standardised, but efforts are underway. The reality is that more work needs to be done."
Jones was less optimistic, however, maintaining that Java was a mess in the mobile sector and that Bluetooth politics made it difficult to make progress.
Java 2 Mobile Edition has been "hijacked" by Sun Microsystems and the telecoms industry which, according to the analyst, "do not understand what corporations need".
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