Symbian seals key Taiwan deal

The same smartphone software built into Sony Ericsson's P800 will appear in phones from a major player in the Taiwan consumer electronics business

Smartphone operating system maker Symbian has signed on its first Taiwanese manufacturer, with BenQ announcing a deal to bring Symbian handsets to market beginning in the third quarter of this year.

BenQ, formerly the contract-manufacturing arm of Acer, is a major maker of displays and laptop computers, among other products. It joins Symbian licensees such as Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Siemens -- most of whom also own a stake in Symbian. The deal arrives just ahead of next week's 3GSM Congress wireless show in Cannes, France.

In recent months Symbian has shifted its strategy to encompass both high-end smartphones and relatively inexpensive handsets, and the BenQ deal could help Symbian diversify its offerings. Another Taiwanese manufacturer, High Tech Computer, recently became the first to offer a handset based on Microsoft's Smartphone 2002 software.

BenQ will use the UIQ user interface also licensed by Sony Ericsson for its P800 smartphone, which will launch in the UK shortly. UIQ is a subsidiary of Symbian, and licenses a renamed version of Symbian's Quartz user interface.

The interface is designed for pen-based interaction using a touch-screen, as well as one-handed use with a keypad. By contrast, the Series 60 interface used by Nokia's Symbian-based camera-phone, the 7650, only uses a keypad.

Earlier reports in the Taiwanese press had hinted at a partnership between BenQ and Nokia, a claim BenQ was quick to deny. Various publications had also reported on a possible deal between BenQ and Symbian since last month.

BenQ said its first Symbian handset will be available by the third quarter, subject to further agreement with Symbian, and said its products will work with 2.5G and ultimately 3G networks.

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