Taiwan's HTC (High Tech Computer), the largest maker of mobile handsets that run the Windows Mobile OS (operating system), plans to launch a smartphone that looks like a BlackBerry, complete with a qwerty keypad, by the end of the year.

The handset, code-named Excalibur, is designed to promote the push email function of Microsoft's Windows Mobile, and compete with the popular BlackBerry service offered by RIM (Research In Motion). BlackBerry-like offerings entering the market raise the stakes for RIM as it faces increased competition.

HTC's new handset will support a host of wireless functions, including GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication), Edge (Enhanced Data GSM Environment), WLAN (wireless LAN) and Bluetooth, according to a source close to the matter.

HTC declined to officially comment on the device.

The device is likely to be launched first by mobile phone service provider O2 in Germany, with a qwertz keypad for the local market instead of qwerty.

Excalibur will then be offered in other areas of Europe. Pricing information was not available.