Microsoft smartphone ships to developers

The UK's Sendo is shipping the first developer versions of its long-awaited Z100 device, the first Windows-Powered Smartphone

Sendo has begun offering developers an early version of its Windows-Powered Smartphone 2002 handset, the Z100, as it prepares to launch the device this summer. Z100 is likely to be one of the first phones to use the Smartphone 2002 software.

On Friday Sendo began taking orders for the Z100, although the devices will be available in limited quantities, and only to those whom Sendo judges to be legitimately creating developer applications. US developers will also have to ensure that the phone does not cause interference with nearby receiving televisions and radios, as the Z100 hasn't yet received Federal Communications Commission approval. Sendo expected to begin shipping the device to developers on Wednesday, following the UK's double bank holiday.

The full-fledged developer kit will cost about $900 (£630), compared to $700 for the Early Adopter version, and will not be available until mid-July. The cheaper Early Adopter Developers Kit requires users to download a beta-test version of Sendo's developer software, and does not include the three email support cases, worth about $450, that will come with the full version.

The developer release is a sign that the Z100 is nearing release, more than a year after it was first announced. The handset will be Microsoft's flagship mobile phone in both Europe and the US, where it will arrive in the second half of this year. Sendo said the Z100 will launch in the UK some time this summer.

In April, Sendo gave the first glimpse of the applications for the Z100, announcing a wide range of games for the device, as well as productivity applications. Sendo also said it would sell a foldable keyboard for data entry.

Last spring the device was expected to be on the market in autumn 2001. However, last year the wireless industry saw dreadful market conditions as a result of the global economic slowdown, and the GPRS data networks upon which smartphones depend have not matured as quickly as planned.

The Z100 will offer email, Web browsing and other handheld computer features in a compact mobile phone form factor. Sendo's handset weighs 99 grams and claims to be the smallest and lightest GPRS tri-band smartphone. It has a 65,000-colour TFT display and uses the 900, 1800 and 1900 GSM bands, allowing it to function in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

Among its PDA-like features are Web and WAP browsers, digital music player, Java support USB, IrDA and serial connectivity and a Multimedia Card/Secure Digital Card slot for memory expansion.

The phone includes an unspecified amount of RAM and 32MB of Flash memory, and runs on an ARM9 core-based processor from Texas Instruments. Sendo estimates it will cost about $399 (£279) with operator subsidies, or $999 without subsidies.

The main competition for the Smartphone 2002 platform is the Symbian OS, which has been around in handsets from Ericsson and Nokia for more than two years. However, the lack of stable GPRS data connectivity has kept such devices from gaining traction so far.

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