February 12, 2002 1:20 PM PST

Pocket PC dials up Phone Edition

Microsoft next Tuesday will announce an application that will let manufacturers using its Pocket PC 2002 operating system add wireless access for data and voice calls to their upcoming devices.

The announcement will be made in Cannes, France, and the application will be called Microsoft Phone Edition, sources said. The software will allow handhelds to access data and make wireless voice calls. The first devices to support Phone Edition will run on GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) networks and will be a new class of devices from manufacturers supporting the Pocket PC OS.

"Phone Edition shows that Microsoft is thinking integration, and it's a good prelude to products that we'll see in the future," IDC analyst Kevin Burden said.

Microsoft representatives declined to comment for this story.

Increasingly, handheld makers have been looking to wireless capabilities as a key feature for future devices. Market share leaders Palm and Handspring separately introduced new devices this year, and Microsoft has been touting its wireless strategy for more than a year.

Investors have also taken an interest in devices that incorporate wireless capabilities. Shares for Handspring's stock shot up about 30 percent Monday on news that the company began selling its Treo communicator devices in the United States via its Web site.

Sources said other manufacturers, looking for a similarly positive response, are expected to introduce next Tuesday new handhelds using Microsoft's Phone Edition application. At this year's Consumer Electronics Show, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates briefly demonstrated in a keynote speech a Hewlett-Packard Jornada device using the software and another from AudioVox using an application from Sierra Wireless.

Product launches for devices using the application are expected to be for Asian and European markets first, with U.S. launches set for later this year.

Unlike its Windows Powered Smartphone 2002 operating system, Microsoft Phone Edition is for data-centric devices first and voice communications second.

Phone Edition will allow consumers to get e-mail, but, unlike Palm's i705 device or Research in Motion's BlackBerry devices, won't enable always-on, instant access to messages. Devices will support short messaging and will allow consumers to make calls by tapping directly on entries in their contact list.

The Windows Powered Smartphone 2002 operating system, which previously went by the code name "Stinger," is expected to come out later this year and will be for voice-centric devices.

 

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