3GSM: mm02 first to launch Wireless Pocket PCs

British Telecommunications' former mobile arm mm02 will be the first to offer customers Microsoft's Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition...

British Telecommunications' former mobile arm mm02 will be the first to offer customers Microsoft's Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition PDA.

The PDA comes with with a high-resolution color touch screen comes with built-in combined GSM and GPRS technology or Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA)-based 1XRTT, said Magnus Ahlberg, Microsoft's mobile marketing manager EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) at the 3GSM congress in Cannes.

"The Pocket PCs will make it to the market in Europe first with the mmO2 device and the HP device available by the second quarter. There will also in the future be other versions of the Wireless Pocket PC from other carriers, including Orange," Ahlberg said.

Unlike the Smartphone, the Pocket PCs include such applications as Pocket Word and Pocket Excel. Pocket PCs can be used as a mobile phone, being held directly to the ear, the device comes with a small built-in speakerphone and Microsoft is also selling headsets as well as smaller Bluetooth attachments that fit into the user's ear.

Along with its XDA, mmO2 will by the second quarter distribute the combined mobile phone-PDA Handspring Treo for use on its GSM networks in Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and the UK. By the end of the year, mmO2 will bring out a software upgrade allowing the Treo to run over GPRS mobile data networks as well. The Treo runs on Palm's Palm OS.

"O2 is trying to cover each segment of the business market," said IDC's Pescatore. "So O2 has plans to sell a branded version of Handspring, Pocket PC and Palm as well. But what Microsoft, and to a somewhat lesser extent O2, is banking on is that people will feel more comfortable using the XDA because it most resembles the experience they have on their PC," said Pescatore, analyst at IDC.

The operating system for Microsoft's Smartphone is based on its Stinger software. "In terms of competition, I'd say that Symbian is our primary competitor," Ahlberg said. The Epoc-based operating system from Symbian is an open software platform that is co-owned by Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola and has been licensed by, among others, Fujitsu and Sanyo.

Pescatore sees Symbian as leading the way in the smart phone market. "Symbian has the advantage at the moment, but things are also changing in this area, as the smart phone moves into becoming a multimedia device that will have voice capabilities, as opposed to the other way around. I think MMS [Multimedia Messaging Service] will be big and it will be the application that really starts GPRS," Pescatore said.

Read more on Wireless networking