Microsoft's Smartphone Debut

Last week, Microsoft announced the debut of its Windows-based Smartphone technology in UK-based Orange Telecom's SPV device. (For details, see or .) Taiwan's HTC, the company that created the recent Pocket PC Phone Edition devices available in the United States from AT&T Wireless Services and T-Mobile, is manufacturing the SPV device. The device has hit the market before the much anticipated Z100 Windows Smartphone, which Sendo ( ) is developing.

Microsoft has developed the Windows Smartphone OS primarily as a great phone and secondarily as a PDA. Therefore, expect the SPV's phone functionality to be much better than that of Pocket PC Phone Edition. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to play with the SPV and found it to be a cool little device. The Smartphone doesn't have a touchscreen and stylus but accepts simple one-handed use for menus and features.

The Windows Smartphone boasts many of the Pocket PC's PDA features, including Microsoft Outlook functionality (email, calendar, contacts), MSN Messenger (Instant Messaging—IM), Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), and the ability to play audio and video content through Windows Media Player (WMP). The Outlook functionality leverages the Microsoft Mobile Information Server 2002, ActiveSync Edition architecture that Pocket PC uses to synchronize email, calendar, and contacts over the wireless (specifically General Packet Radio Service—GPRS) connection. I do question the usefulness of Windows Messaging from the Smartphone: Multitapping messages in a realtime IM session would be difficult. Also, streaming audio and video content over the current wireless-connection bandwidth would be frustrating.

Both the SPV and Z100 devices are Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) /GPRS-enabled and offer 900MHz/1800MHz models. The devices will therefore work in Europe and Asia but not in North America. The companies will soon include the 1900MHz personal communications services (PCS) frequencies. Expect to see various models of the Windows Smartphone, including Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA)/1xRTT-enabled devices, in the United States early next year.

Microsoft also plans to release a version of the Microsoft .NET Compact Framework for use with Windows Smartphones. This version will offer some of the features that the Compact Framework in the next version of Microsoft Visual Studio .NET will offer. However, it will also provide features that take advantage of the Smartphone UI and capabilities.

In the next Mobile & Wireless UPDATE, I'll look at other Smartphones due to hit the market. See you next time.

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