September 4, 2002 1:06 PM PDT

BSquare to build wireless device

Handheld-software maker BSquare is getting hip to wireless and is working with partners Intel and Microsoft to bring mobile devices to large businesses.

The company announced Wednesday that it has developed a reference design for a PDA (personal digital assistant) geared toward enterprise customers looking for a gadget that lets workers make voice calls and wirelessly access data to surf the Web, read e-mail and access corporate networks. The design, called the Power Handheld, is built around Intel's XScale chip and Microsoft's operating system for embedded devices.

Bellevue, Wash.-based BSquare said the reference design will help device makers get products to market faster and make it quicker and easier for wireless carriers to offer branded gadgets in their quest to sell more minutes.

"Carriers are looking for ways to drive data usage," said Bill Baxter, CEO of BSquare.

BSquare is in talks with several major original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to license the reference design and has a Chinese manufacturing partner ready to produce the PDAs, according to Kent Hellebust, BSquare's senior vice president of marketing. BSquare will also act as an OEM and let other companies re-brand the gadget, working with clients to customize the device if desired. In either case, BSquare will collect royalties on each unit shipped.

Large businesses thus far have turned a deaf ear to the rings of wireless devices. Research In Motion has been the most successful in selling to big companies, with 355,000 BlackBerry subscribers as of June 1. However, Hellebust said that because BSquare is using technology large businesses are familiar with, products based on its design will be more appealing to companies and could "short circuit" the yearlong trials that usually take place before enterprises approve and release devices to their workers.

One gadget based on the Power Handheld design will be demonstrated next week in San Jose, Calif., at the Intel Developer Forum. Code-named Maui, it uses Intel's 400MHz XScale PXA250 processor and Microsoft's OS for embedded devices, Windows CE .Net version 4.1. Maui also features a 4-inch backlit color display with a resolution of 640 pixels by 480 pixels, a built-in GPRS/GSM networks (general packet radio service/global system for mobile communications) module, 64MB of memory, a Secure Digital slot and a retractable keyboard.

PDAs based on BSquare's reference design are expected to hit the market in the fourth quarter and range in price from $600 to $800.

BSquare's business is similar to that of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Danger, whose Hiptop device is due to appear later this month from wireless carrier T-Mobile, under the name Sidekick. However, BSquare is targeting the corporate market, and Danger sees itself as more of a services company, forgoing licensing royalties in favor of a cut of carrier profits.

 

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