Orange to offer 3G, Wi-Fi palmtop smart phone

It's a phone! It's a PDA! It's a (very small) laptop!

Orange has confirmed that it will release later this year a Windows Mobile-based handset engineered for 3G networks and that the device will be produced by HTC.

T-Mobile MDA IVThe announcement, tucked away in the company's device roadmap for the coming year, almost certainly refers to 'Universal', HTC's upcoming palmtop/phone that T-Mobile has already said it will offer as the MDA IV.

Universal is the world's first Windows Mobile device to provide 3G compatibility. It's a PDA-sized product with a 640 x 480 display that can be swivelled and rotated round to allow the unit to be operated either as a tablet or as a clamshell. The unit sports a QWERTY keyboard, stereo speakers and twin digital cameras for still photography and video-calls.

In addition to 3G and regular 800, 1800 and 1900MHz GSM/GPRS operation, Universal can connect to Wi-Fi networks and incorporates Bluetooth. The device is powered by a 520MHz Intel XScale processor.

Orange did not say precisely when its version of Universal will go on sale - it simply said the device will ship "later this year". However, T-Mobile expects to ship the MDA IV in Germany in the "Summer" with other countries following shortly afterward, so that's probably Orange's timeframe too.

HTC has become one of the key manufacturers of Windows Mobile-based handsets, cutting ODM deals with O2, Vodafone, i-Mate and QTek in addition to Orange and T-Mobile. Last month, it reported monthly sales of TWD4.2bn ($132.3m) up 90.1 per cent on the TWD2.2bn ($69.6) recorded for January 2004. ®

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