Smartphones, tablet PCs and even smaller things

News Schmooze: Microsoft, Vodafone and Symbian commenced battle, tablet PCs geared up and IBM made a circuit that's a gas.

It's starting to feel like Christmas already in the high-tech world. That is, the feeling that lots of large, powerful companies are spending millions of pounds to compete for your holiday shopping pennies. This week was a perfect example, with not one, nor two, nor three, but four separate major announcements related to smartphones -- something that no one has yet figured out how to make money on. Unlike Internet set-top boxes, though, these are gadgets with obvious appeal -- they are small, sleek, have colour screens, and often include discreet cameras. Microsoft staged two of the four announcements. This may not have been the cleverest idea, as the two new products tended to blend in one's mind. They were two handsets, both running Microsoft's catchily named Windows Powered Smartphone 2002 (formerly just "Stinger"). One, the SPV (not SVP, if you please), was launched by Orange and will show up in a couple of weeks. The other, the Z100 from Sendo, was actually announced about two years ago, and hasn't changed much since then. It will be offered by T-Mobile and possibly others at some point in the future.
Microsoft launches smartphone assault
Orange unveils first Microsoft smartphone Vodafone tended to get the short end of the stick, publicity-wise, compared to Microsoft, which was probably the point. The operator is bringing some of its veteran Japanese mobile technology over, complete with Japanese handsets. The UK won't be getting the nifty European version of i-mode for now -- unlike some other European countries -- but Vodafone is trying to make up for this with a package of messaging services, games and the like. This is hailed as a bold move, but it makes one wonder why Vodafone has been wasting its time marketing obscure acronyms like WAP and GPRS for the past few years.
Vodafone gambles on 'biggest ever launch' Last but not least, Symbian brought to light its latest licensee, Samsung. It now not only licenses to all of the five biggest handset makers but, in the third quarter, shipped more "smart devices" (i.e. the Nokia 7650) to Europe than Palm or Microsoft. And all this just as the Schmoozer has managed to sit on his trusty, if obsolete, Psion 5mx, putting him vaguely in the market for something gadgety and portable. Let the battle commence.
Symbian signs on Samsung as it surges to No. 1 spot
Symbian influx boosts mobile device sales Another mobile device with a far higher price tag and less obvious sex appeal is the tablet PC. Nevertheless, there will probably also be a melee in this area ahead of Christmas, with several different manufacturers -- including a new start-up -- trying to convince you that it's a good idea to carry your flat-panel computer screen around with you and write directly onto the surface. Who needs that clumsy, inefficient keyboard?
Tablet PC rivalry sets in Could this be the real future of mobile gadgetry? IBM has come up with a circuit made out of carbon monoxide modules. The molecules push each other around like dominoes falling. IBM duly notes that 190 billion of these circuits could fit into a pencil eraser. The Schmoozer suspects that would be enough to let him play Tetris and make videophone calls from a wristwatch. But will it make toast?
IBM builds circuit with carbon monoxide modules The News Schmooze is ZDNet UK's irreverent take on the week's news. Send your tip-offs to:

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