April 16, 2002 11:05 AM PDT

Start-up nears launch for Hiptop handheld

update Handheld start-up Danger is moving closer to launching its Hiptop cell phone/organizer device in the United States, having recently received approval from the Federal Communications Commission to start selling it here.

According to documents filed with the regulatory agency, the device uses America Online's instant messaging software and appears to be connected to networks run by T-Mobile. T-Mobile, which is owned by Deutsche Telekom, operates in the United States under the name VoiceStream. However, the company is in the process of adopting the T-Mobile name in the United States. The FCC's approval came Thursday.

The Hiptop has received much attention at trade shows such as the recent PC Forum and Consumer Electronics Show, but when the device would arrive has been a question mark.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company had hoped to have the device out last fall but has pushed back the launch. More recently the company said it expects devices to begin shipping in late spring.

Danger has not said which carriers will market the device, which can browse the Web, send and receive e-mail, and make phone calls. The unit, which has a screen that flips up to reveal a small keyboard, also has traditional organizer features such as a calendar and to-do list; and that information can be stored on the Web as well as on the device.

A Danger representative declined to comment for this story. A VoiceStream representative was not immediately available for comment.

Documents filed with the FCC call the Danger device the "T-Mobile Device" and lists a T-Mobile customer service number for people to activate service. Danger has said that carriers will be able to sell the device under their own brands. Danger would get a monthly fee for managing the service for the device.

The company has said the device should sell for around $200 and will be aimed at consumers.

In October, Danger received $25 million in a second round of funding from funds including T-Venture, Deutsche Telekom's venture capital arm. Other investors included Orange Ventures, the venture arm of Orange; InOvate Communications Group; Diamondhead Ventures; Redpoint Ventures; and original backer Mobius Venture Capital, formerly known as Softbank.

The Hiptop is powered by a Samsung chip with an ARM 7 core and uses a General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)/Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) radio from Intel's Xircom unit, according to a block diagram filed with the FCC.

The unit can be dialed a number of ways, according to a draft user manual. Calls can be placed from the phone book, from a list of recent calls, from a speed dial list, by typing by name, and even the old-fashioned way, by dialing the 10-digit number.

According to the documents, the device can open e-mail from any standard POP3 account and can also open several types of attached graphics files such as JPEG, GIF and bitmap files. The device also includes a small digital camera for taking pictures and the unit can store and send photos as well.

Those who use AOL Instant Messenger can have multiple conversations at once and have access to their "buddy list." The device can also send and receive short text messages using the SMS standard.

William Crawford, an analyst at Wall Street brokerage U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, said Danger is unique in the way it splits the work between the information that is processed on the server and that which is processed on the device. Because much of the information rests on the server, Danger can quickly add new programs or file formats. Equally important, he said, the device also stores some information locally so it can be accessed even when the device is not connected to a server.

"While I find the device innovative and interesting, it is the architecture of the services that I think really will build a business for Danger," Crawford said.

 

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