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HTC, T-Mobile to launch Orange-like MS smartphone

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ComputerWire logo High Tech Computer Corp (HTC) is prepping its second Windows Powered Smartphone 2002-based handset.

The new GSM/GPRS handset, details of which were first revealed on the Federal Communications Commission's web site last month, will be launched with Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile International mobile network unit this quarter.

The as yet unnamed unit bears a close physical and technical similarity to the HTC designed SPV (sound, picture, video) device launched by Orange SA in November last year, apparently with a 12-month exclusivity contract for the France Telecom SA-owned mobile operator.

However, HTC spokesperson Martin Liu told ComputerWire that the design does not break the terms of its contract with Orange, despite appearances. "HTC will not infringe any agreement with customers, of course, including the exclusivity right of our customers," said Liu.

T-Mobile's adoption of Windows Smartphone should come as no surprise. The company is arguably Microsoft's closest mobile operator partner since Deutsche Telekom forged a wide-ranging technology partnership with the company last March. T-Mobile has already launched an HTC-designed wireless PDA on its German and US networks.

This device, based on Microsoft's Pocket PC Phone Edition 2002 and named the MDA, is itself a virtual clone of mmO2 Plc's XDA, suggesting that the criteria by which exclusivity is determined are fairly narrow.

This being the case, Taipei, Taiwan-based HTC might reasonably be expected to launch similar devices - both Smartphone and Pocket PC Phone Edition-based - with other network operators in due course. However, the company will not be revealing future partners, according to Liu.

"We always respect our customers' roadmap, so we will let our customer decide when and how to announce their product," he said.

However, whether a clone-based model, with essentially the same device being offered by multiple operators, will help Microsoft to establish its hoped for beachhead in the smart-phone and connected-device markets is hard to ascertain.

Certainly, the variety of devices available taking this approach is likely to fall way behind those from the rival Symbian and Palm OS camps, with Microsoft putting its faith in a small number of Far Eastern OEMs for hardware. And this could prove crucial in a market that is as much subject to fad and fashion as it is to utility.

Microsoft Smartphone partners include HTC, Compal Communications and Samsung Electronics, with Asustek Computer and MiTac Group having joined the select few over the holiday season. Orange was unavailable to comment on the story before ComputerWire went to press.

© ComputerWire

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