October 22, 2002 10:18 AM PDT

Microsoft's phone software ready to talk

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Microsoft on Tuesday announced that its long-awaited Smartphone 2002 software is complete and said the first phones with the software will debut in Europe later this month.

Wireless carrier Orange plans to sell the device in the United Kingdom for 179 pounds ($277), including a digital camera add-on. The phone, known as SPV (Sound, Pictures, Video), is built by Taiwan-based High Tech Computer (HTC), the contract manufacturer for Hewlett-Packard's original iPaq handheld device as well as British wireless carrier mm02's XDA handheld.

"Orange is really setting the bar for a mass-market smart phone," said Microsoft Product Manager Ed Suwanjindar. Orange had announced plans to launch such a device.

The U.S. is unlikely to see such devices until next year. U.S. carriers Verizon Wireless, Cingular Wireless and AT&T Wireless are all committed to releasing devices running Microsoft's operating system, with only AT&T publicly committing to a time frame. AT&T will have a device available some time before the middle of next year.

Microsoft has two operating systems for wireless devices. Already on the market are wireless handhelds running Microsoft's Pocket PC Phone Edition. Those products can make phone calls but have a large screen and lack a number pad. By contrast, devices running Smartphone 2002 look like slightly bulkier cell phones, with a jog dial for one-handed dialing and browsing of contacts and other information.

Suwanjindar said Microsoft believes the ultimate market for the kinds of devices that will run Smartphone 2002 is much larger than that of wireless handhelds.

"The goal of this product is not a niche market," he said.

So far four companies have committed to making the phones that will run Smartphone 2002. These include Samsung, which is developing a CDMA phone with the operating system and which announced plans Tuesday to develop a CDMA device built around Pocket PC Phone Edition. Samsung has already received U.S. regulatory approval for its Smartphone 2002-based product.

However, the largest cell phone makers, such as Nokia and Motorola, have balked at publicly supporting Microsoft's efforts. All five of the world's top cell phone makers--Nokia, Motorola, Ericsson, Samsung and Siemens--are planning to make phones using a rival operating system called Symbian. Samsung is the lone licensee of Microsoft's Smartphone software among the top five handset makers.

AT&T Wireless sells a Siemens Pocket PC Phone edition device for $550.

"We want to give the likes of Nokia and Ericsson a wake-up call," Richard Brennan, an executive vice president at Orange, told Reuters. "At the moment, we feel Nokia and Sony Ericsson are not innovating fast enough. We need to make a clear statement that we are not going to wait around."

 

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