Microsoft shows off Pocket PC Phone Edition

The software, first announced last autumn, will give users the Internet at their fingertips and integrates wireless communications into many Pocket PC applications

Microsoft has released the first details on its Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition, ahead of its first Mobility Developer Conference, being held in London on Wednesday and Thursday.

Phone Edition was first mentioned publicly last October, when, at the official launch of Pocket PC 2002, Microsoft briefly showed the Phone Edition-based xda. The device, from former BT arm mmO2, will be available in May.

When it does appear, the xda looks set support GPRS, providing always-on access to both voice and data services. In the UK the BlackBerry email device from mmO2 division BT Wireless uses GPRS.

Many of the components of Phone Edition will be familiar to Pocket PC users. All the Pocket PC 2002 applications reappear, with the most obvious new application being a phone dialler for voice calls. The dialler has a variety of extra features, including speed dialling, caller ID support, call waiting, conference calls, call forwarding and call logging.

Wireless communications features have been integrated across many of the standard applications. For example, SMS storage and creation is integrated into the Inbox email application. From Contacts users can access the device's SIM, create SMS messages and autodial voice calls.

Notifications are essentially information bubbles on the Today screen, which in Pocket PC 2002 do things like issue meeting reminders, and pop up for all types of communications-related events: incoming SMS, incoming voice calls, MSN Messenger alerts. The Today screen menu bar icon for volume control now includes an option to toggle vibrate mode, and houses a new icon to switch communications on and off.

When it comes to email, POP3 and IMAP4 are supported out of the box. GPRS comes into its own for server-based communications, as Server ActiveSync can be configured to synchronise contacts, calendar and the inbox over the air at intervals as brief as every five minutes.

Another key draw of Phone Edition is having the Internet immediately available. Pocket Internet Explorer can trawl Web (and WAP) sites, though hands-on use found that displaying Web sites in a Pocket PC-sized screen was not always successful. Always-on data could give a boost to the growing array of location-based services designed for the Pocket PC-screen format, including route planning, live event booking and restaurant booking services.

Microsoft's Windows CE software, of which Pocket PC is a derivative, also powers the upcoming Z100 smartphone from the UK's Sendo, which will launch in the US and UK later this year.


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