Microsoft and Sweden's LM Ericsson AB are forming a joint venture to develop products for consumers to access the Internet and send e-mail from any wireless device, they said today.

The new company will use Ericsson's mobile communications technology, Microsoft's Windows operating system and a new Microsoft Mobile Explorer software platform introduced in conjunction with the announcement.

Ericsson will hold a majority share in the venture, which comes amid a fierce scramble by technology firms to take a lead role in the potentially explosive market for wireless Internet devices.

The Microsoft alliance parallels a recent deal by Finnish rival Nokia to adapt the software that runs the popular Palm handheld computer for mobile phones with Internet access.

Notably, however, both Nokia and Ericsson are already partnered with Motorola to develop an operating system named Epoc for mobile phones with Web access.

In a separate release, Ericsson said the agreement with Microsoft would not affect its involvement in the consortium with Motorola and Nokia.

The Ericsson deal is important for Microsoft because the dominant maker of software for desktop and laptop computers wants to ensure a strong foothold with mobile phones after being trounced by the Palm system for handheld computers.

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced that it would work with British Telecommunications on handheld wireless devices for sending e-mail and browsing the Internet.

"Mobile Internet access and services are crucial for realizing Microsoft's vision of empowering knowledge workers and consumers through software any time, anywhere and on any device," Microsoft President Steve Ballmer said in the statement.

Microsoft and Ericsson also said they have agreed to work together to support developing open industry standards such as wireless application protocol, universal plug and play, and Bluetooth.