A Crystal-Clear Communicator

Imagine getting rid of your notebook and your cell phone, then hitting the road with a total communicator that's not much bigger than your Palm. According to Symbian, a joint venture between Psion and several major cellular-phone makers, that could happen sooner than you might think.

Imagine getting rid of your notebook and your cell phone, then hitting the road with a total communicator that's not much bigger than your Palm. According to Symbian, a joint venture between Psion and several major cellular-phone makers, that could happen sooner than you might think. - Elaine Chen, Content Production

17 May 2000 - The company recently unveiled Quartz, a prototype for a wireless cell phone and Net-access device with a color screen. Partners Psion, Motorola, and Ericsson plan to turn this compelling concept into reality by next year.

The Quartz prototype is a tablet-shaped device with a quarter-VGA (320x420) color touch screen that's roughly the same size as a Pocket PC. It will be capable of handling phone calls, Web browsing, e-mail, faxes, and basic PIM apps. They are all based on the same Epoc operating system that drives Psion devices. A version with a larger half-VGA screen, code-named Crystal, is also in the works.

Unlike today's phones or the Palm VII, Quartz will be able to surf standard HTML Web pages in addition to content in the emerging Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) standard for smart phones.

Of course, the wireless Web space has plenty of competition, particularly from Palm, whose applications have already been licensed by Motorola and Nokia. But the Quartz platform's open-standard approach is one of its biggest strengths, says Symbian spokeswoman Hanna Sigge.

"The flexibility of our platform means that our licensees can develop a whole range of different services," she says. And Symbian is also hedging its bets by discussing possible cross-licensing arrangements with Palm.

Motorola plans to launch a Quartz product by the second quarter of next year, and Ericsson should follow shortly thereafter. Nokia, Panasonic, and Psion are all developing products for the platform as well. In the future, when you hear a cell phone ring, take a good look—it could be the Web calling.

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