Sharp Electronics has launched a wireless Internet service for its Zaurus SL-5500 in the US, offering unlimited access to email and the Web, but the service won't be coming to Europe any time soon.
The Japanese company will launch its Linux-based handheld in the UK next Wednesday, and the device is due to ship here within weeks of the launch. But Sharp has "no plans in the near future" to create an online service here, a spokeswoman said.
Sharp Mobile Services uses the US wireless network of Verizon to offer unlimited local access to Internet content for $39.95 (£28) per month with a $149 modem and a $29.95 activation fee. However, those signing up for a beta test period from 8 April to 5 June will save $80 as Sharp is waiving the activation fee and selling the modem for $99.
The monthly fee will also be lower, at $29.95, and will include roaming. Roaming outside the designated usage area will incur extra fees afer 5 June. The service package requires a one-year contract.
Sharp's offering will compete with Palm's i705 and Research In Motion's BlackBerry -- both integrated wireless handhelds. Unlike BlackBerry, however, the Zaurus cannot yet connect to enterprise email servers like Exchange. Sharp is planning enterprise email for a future version of the service.
Several handheld makers are currently pushing wireless devices, which range from handheld-mobile phone combinations such as Handspring's Treo to integrated wireless PDAs like Research In Motion's BlackBerry or Palm's i705, to the Symbian OS-based smartphones from Nokia, Ericsson and others.
Treo, BlackBerry and the Symbian OS devices are available in the UK, along with Pogo, a consumer-oriented wireless PDA/mobile phone from a British start-up. Microsoft's Windows CE software will be built into a mobile phone handset from UK start-up Sendo that is launching later this year in Europe and the US.
Wireless is widely held to be the future of the mobile computing industry. The mobile phone makers who partly own Symbian have an edge on other PDA companies because of their access to the massive mobile phone distribution channel.
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