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Microsoft launches Stinger at competition

But bringing down its rivals will take more than one shot

Microsoft and its manufacturing partners debuted gadgets based on its new Wireless Pocket PC platform at the GSM World Congress in Cannes today. Attendees are being given a hands-on sneak peek at the Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition and the Windows-Powered Smartphone 2002 device (previously known by the codename Stinger), which will go on sale from partners in Europe and US by the end of June.

The Smartphone devices are primarily mobile phones with some PDA (personal digital assistant) functions, while the new Pocket PCs are PDAs that also act as mobile phones, said Magnus Ahlberg, Microsoft's mobile marketing manager Emea (Europe, the Middle East and Africa).

Carriers that sell the Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition devices will most likely use their own brand names. The first branded Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition devices will be the HP Jornada 928 WDA (wireless digital assistant) from Hewlett Packard and the XDA from UK-based mobile phone operator mmO2, he said.

The carriers that will brand the various devices will release prices for the products shortly, Ahlberg said, though he expect the devices would be competitively priced so as to compete with products already on the market.

Since announcing last year that it will jump into the highly competitive PDA market with the likes of Handspring and its combined mobile phone-PDA Treo and RIM's (Research In Motion's) Blackberry wireless email device, Microsoft has wasted little time in promoting its plans for the Pocket PC platform.

At the CES trade show in Las Vegas last month, Microsoft began outlining details for products that blend telephony functions with PDAs. The company is now showing off the actual devices.

"By offering both the Pocket PC Wireless and the Smartphones, we are trying to cater to all needs across the market. For example, the Smartphones, which are being branded by Orange, Vodafone, T-Mobile [in Germany] and Telefónica [in Spain], are in trials now and we are finding that they are strong [products] even in the lower segments of the markets," Ahlberg said.

According to Ahlberg, there are already over 10,000 registered MS Mobility applications developed for the Wireless Pocket PC platform. "Being able to offer services over the mobile phone PDAs will be key for the carriers as that is where the most revenue will be generated. We are going to be able to offer thousands of services," Ahlberg said.

The Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition is a PDA with a high-resolution colour touch-screen comes with built-in combined GSM (global system for mobile communication) and GPRS (general packet radio service) technology or CDMA (code division multiple access)-based 1XRTT, Ahlberg said.

"The Pocket PCs will make it to the market in Europe first with the mmO2 device and the HP device available by the second quarter. We'll lead in Europe then, in the US (the HP device) will come not that far after that, by the end of the second quarter. There will also in the future be other versions of the Wireless Pocket PC from other carriers, including Orange," Ahlberg said.

The Wireless Pocket PCs have larger screens than the Smartphones and are intended to be operated with two hands using a touch-screen stylus, Ahlberg said. Unlike the Smartphone, the Pocket PCs include such applications as Pocket Word and Pocket Excel.

And though the Pocket PCs can be used as a mobile phone, being held directly to the ear, the device comes with a small built-in speakerphone and Microsoft is also selling headsets as well as smaller Bluetooth attachments that fit into the user's ear. "You can use the device as a regular mobile phone, but it is a little bulky for that and we think people will prefer this more elegant option," Ahlberg said.


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