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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Sendo Holdings Ltd has set a target price for its long-awaited handset powered by Microsoft Corp's Smartphone software that will significantly undercut O2 Plc's XDA. The company is also considering a flashable terminal to allow for operating system upgrades,

Tony Cripps writes

.

Ron Schaeffer, head of product strategy and planning with the Birmingham, UK-based mobile phone start-up told ComputerWire that he believes the GPRS-connected Z100 will cost in the region of 299 pounds ($460) with a contract, and 600 to 700 pounds ($930 to $1,085) SIM-free.

Schaeffer believes this compares well with O2's recently launched XDA, which uses the pen-interface based Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition rather than Smartphone, and is the only device he believes offer a similar range of functionality. The XDA is currently on sale in the UK for between 500 and 550 pounds ($775 and $850) with a contract, and about 820 pounds ($1,270) without.

At the prices touted by Schaeffer, the Z100 is clearly aimed at business users rather than consumers. However, the short lifespan envisaged by Microsoft for Smartphone 2002 could prove an obstacle for Sendo's aspirations for initial production of the device.

As reported Friday, Microsoft's international director for its mobility division, Roberto Cazarro, expects a new version of Smartphone based around the next Windows CE Kernel to be released in the first quarter of 2003.

Even if Sendo can meet its target of shipping the Z100 to operators by September or October this year - and there must be some doubt that it will meet this target given the ongoing delays the company has already faced - that could mean the handset could be out of date in as little as three months.

Schaeffer said one way of minimizing this problem is to build the device with flashable ROM, allowing for OS upgrades to be made in the field. This method has already been used on many devices including those from Palm Inc and Compaq Computer Corp (now Hewlett-Packard Co).

Schaeffer indicated that although discussions are in progress to build in this capability, some security issues still need to be addressed for mobile operators, but he was hopeful that these obstacles could be overcome.

Schaeffer indicated that the basic Z100 hardware is compatible with future Smartphone upgrades and would not need significant re-engineering. He also said that Sendo has not ruled out selling its expertise with Smartphone to other handset vendors, having taken the role of test-bed for Microsoft's new baby.

© ComputerWire

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