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Qualcomm bungs Handspring a $10m bonus

You write:-

"Stateside users only get a choice of one carrier per region if they plump for the Treo. So by adding CDMA to its handhelds Handspring should get access to more carrier customers, and Handspring mavens get more choice of carrier."

This is no longer true given that powerhouse North American carriers Cingular (#2 in the U.S.), AT&T (#3 in the U.S.) and Rogers AT&T (#1 in Canada) are all switching to GSM (with GPRS) across their entire networks.

I can receive five GSM signals in my border locale (two Canadian and three U.S. GSM networks: Microcell, Rogers Voicestream, Cingular, and AT&T).

There's every reason to believe that by the time a new Handspring smartphone based on IS-95 CDMA that every major market will have a choice of GSM carrier in both the U.S. and Canada and there's some reason to believe that the GSM user base may have caught up by then as well.

I'm not at all surprised that Qualcomm is having to make an equity stake in Handspring to make this happen, there's no reason at this late date, when GSM's star is ascendant at last in North America at last, to choose this particular moment to make major R&D investments in IS-95.

"Handspring already licenses CDMA, executives said today, but the investment makes a CDMA-enabled device likely sooner rather than later."

Case in point, they've had the ability and haven't done so for good reason. GSM dominates the world, and is finally the fastest growing in North America as well. Qualcomm appears to be attempting to purchase their
support, but things look bleak given that all the prominent IS-136 carriers are switching to GSM and GPRS in North America, and thinks look bleaker still for 3G given that #1 IS-95 CDMA carrier Verizon is owned in part by a European GSM provider and might switch to the GSM 3G offering down the road.

IS-95 may end up being a complete dead-end as more and more carriers queue-up behind GSM with each successive generation.

This move by Qualcomm smacks of desperation somehow, and I don't happen to agree with the positive-ish tone to your article.

Steve Hurdle

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