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Nokia, Psion, Intel demo next gen Symbian Quartz kit

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Unfazed by the number of recent high-level executive departures from Microsoft - Brad Silverberg, Paul Maritz, two Myrhvolds (Nathan and Cameron), Harel Kodesh, Win CE boss Jonathan Roberts, Rich Tong and almost anyone who was cc'd on billg's wireless strategy memo just a year ago - Symbian will plough ahead on the gamble that Microsoft will remain a presence on the desktop in the near future.

Actually, Symbian executives were far too gentlemanly to make that comparison in a hostile press session at the Symbian Developer Conference today, and no amount of teasing and poking could prompt them to respond to Microsoft's recent anti-Symbian briefings with some mud of their own.

Instead we got a smattering of roadmap announcements and a few peeks and pokes from partners. Nokia announced (although we haven't confirmed this) that their Crystal device will be debuted at its mobile internet bash in Prague later this month. Nokia pioneered the keyboard/phone PDA hybrid with the 9000 of course, and has long viewed Crystal as its anointed successor.

Symbian Release 6 went out the door several weeks ago, and the roadmap now has two major releases for the next two years. Release 6.1 'Packet' Q4 with support for Pearl - the third Symbian reference design - is slated to hit integration testing phase early 2001 with products later in the year. Smartphones take longer, says CEO Colly Myers because of the large volumes. "You can't have problems in the field when all these components arrive. It's got to be great."

Release 6.2 unites support for CDMA, W-CDMA and TDMA air interfaces and vastly more ambitious Bluetooth support, chiefly for accepting inbound requests, but also for object and application exchange. Although 6.1 will handle the US-centric air interfaces, the low level implementation is left to the developer, whereas 6.2 provide one high level abstracted API, Symbian tells us.

Psion showed a prototype Quartz device, although its based on the SA1100 chip. It's comparable in size to the iPaq Pocket PC, although considerably faster - we saw it running MPEG4 video without breaking sweat. However the StrongArm is really just a place holder for Halla - Parthus' ARM9-based processor optimized for Symbian's OS. The company claims this offers a 2x/3x speed improvement over the prototype with much lower power consumption. At the Intel booth we saw a similar demo machine, instead with 64Mb of what the chap said was PC100 memory, the purpose of which was to trail the next generation StrongARM.

Nokia said it will launch its Symbian Crystal based sucessor to its 9000 series at its Mobile Internet Conference in Prague later this month. We'll have more details on Crystal tomorrow, and how much the mobile internet caper could cost you tomorrow. ®

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