Palm and Motorola release plans for new smart phones

Mobile phone and PDA convergence gets ever closer
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor

A tri-band GSM smart phone with GPRS capability and a colour screen will be in the shops by early 2002, according to an announcement Monday from Palm and Motorola.

In their first combined product announcement since Motorola invested in Palm last December, the two companies released details of their plans to create a series of smart phones for sale in 2002. These devices will include the functionality of a Palm handheld computer, but be smaller than today's mobile phones.

Motorola took a stake in Palm in December 1999, before Palm's IPO. Palm is the market leader in the world's handheld computer market. It has recently made several deals with other telecommunications companies including Japanese giant DoCoMo.

By making their plans public now, the companies hope to give software programmers time to adapt current applications to a wireless world, and create new ones. "We made the announcement today to give Palm developers time to get applications compatible with a GSM environment", explained Dominic Stowbridge, director of Motorola Applications Global Network (Magnet). "It's very hard to go from a wired world to a wireless one. The device interface will be different, and there's more of a time delay. It takes a while to overcome these problems," Stowbridge explained.

Palm has a developer community of over 100,000 programmers.

Details of the new tri-band smart phones are still patchy. Stowbridge imagines they will look more like a PDA than one of today's mobile phones, but expects Motorola and Palm to develop a range of devices. "As mobile phones become increasingly personalised, people will tend to own several models. Some devices will be full of plug-ins for the person who wants to do everything. Others will just have PIM [personal information management] functionality", he said.

The first smart phones will not be UMTS compatible, relying instead on GSM and GPRS. "Although third-generation networks will start to be rolled out during 2002, GSM and GPRS will have another seven to ten years of life before blanket 3G is available," explained Stowbridge.

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