Orange planning SPV successor

3GSM: The network operator is to launch the 'SPVx', aimed at consumers and gamers, next month

Orange is to launch a second mobile phone handset based on Microsoft's Windows Powered Smartphone software in April in an effort to appeal to consumers and gamers.

In October the company announced the first Windows-powered smartphone, the SPV, manufactured by Taiwan's High Tech Computer (HTC); the handset hit the market in November, ahead of the Christmas shopping season.

The new handset, code-named "SPVx", will have a similar design and features, but will include some tweaks aimed at consumers: a joystick-type controller for gaming and menu navigation; accessories such as gaming memory modules; a larger keypad; an improved screen; and a new menu layout that emphasises Internet, gaming, music and messaging services.

Orange will also include a camera link cable allowing users more flexibility with the handset's clip-on camera, and may also sell a third-party cradle that turns the device into a gaming console.

Orange announced the SPVx at the 3GSM World Congress wireless trade show in Cannes, France, on Tuesday. (For more 3GSM news, see the Mobile Technology news section.)

The new device is aimed at broadening the SPV's appeal to a wider audience, Orange said. The first model, of which more than 40,000 units have been sold, appeals mainly to business users and technophiles who want mobile email and PC synchronisation, the company said. The new model will be packaged with a clear focus on mainstream consumers. "Orange customers now have a clear choice with regards to the SPV they wish to use -- be it for business or pleasure," said Richard Brennan, an executive vice president at Orange, in a statement.

The more business-oriented SPV will be sold at retail with accesssories such as a plug-in soft keyboard, a car kit and a Bluetooth headset.

The France Telecom unit said it has ambitious plans for its SPV smartphones. It is planning more additions to the line, including a smaller clamshell device, a built-in camera and integrated Bluetooth wireless. On Tuesday, Orange announced a software update for the original SPV that improves battery life and adds two multimedia applications.

Microsoft is rallying its allies against the major mobile phone manufacturers, such as Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Samsung and Siemens, who are all either selling or planning smartphones based on Symbian's software.

On Monday, Microsoft said that T-Mobile would become the second European customer for its Windows Powered Smartphone technology, and would also purchase handsets from HTC. Microsoft also said that more Asian manufacturers were signing up to build Windows smartphones.

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