Mobile phone operator Vodafone and Microsoft are planning to jointly conduct a trial of new mobile intranet products and services aimed at business users.

Users participating in the trial will use Microsoft's Outlook software to communicate via e-mail using various mobile devices.

In addition, they will also be able to access calendar, contact and personalised Web content information based on Microsoft's Exchange program, as well as other online information services.

The project will enable Vodafone to roll out such services globally, with commercial deployment scheduled for the first half of 2001, the companies said.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The services will be based on emerging as well as existing industry standards, including GPRS (General Packet Radio Services), WAP (Wireless Application Protocol), HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and XML (Extensible Markup Language), while the handsets used in the joint trial will feature Microsoft's Mobile Explorer browser software for wireless devices.

Europe's mobile phone market is set to see continued growth. In Western Europe alone, the number of subscribers is expected to reach 200 million people by the end of this year, surpassing 300 million people by 2004, according to estimates by IDC.