3GSM - HP enters the cell phone fray

HP's first smart phone to be among the first Windows Mobile 6 handsets

Hewlett Packard Monday unveiled its first smart phone, a slimmed-down iPaq that will be among the first Windows Mobile 6 handsets when it appears, probably in late spring, officials say.

HP announced the pewter-coloured candy-bar-format GSM/EDGE iPaq 500 series Voice Messenger on the first day of the huge 3GSM cell phone industry show here, and only a few days after Microsoft released details about Windows Mobile 6, the latest iteration of its operating system for smart phones and connected handhelds.

The 500 series will be the first iPaqs that look like cell phones, with phone keypads instead of QWERTY keyboards or touch screens and styli.

Phone details

Consciously targeting enterprise customers who already turn to HP for everything from servers to desktop and notebook PCs, the iPaq handsets will include some corporate-oriented extras as well as Windows Mobile 6's enhancements to mail and Mobile Office applications.

For example, leveraging technology from recent HP acquisition Bitfone, the iPaq Voice Messenger supports over-the-air management by corporate IT staffs. You can, for example, remotely delete all data from a lost handset, or install software updates over the air.

A Voice Commander feature lets you initiate actions (phone calls, for example) and navigate through the phone by speaking into it. The iPaq 500 series also uses text-to-speech technology to let you listen to your e-mail messages, which you can then respond to with a voice recording--all features that might come in handy when you're driving.

The handset has a 1.3-megapixel camera, and a voice-over-IP client that leverages built-in Wi-Fi (it supports Bluetooth, too). Like other Windows Mobile 6 devices, it ships with pared-down versions of core Office apps (editing and document creation capabilities are extremely limited) as well Windows Media Player.

HP says the phone's battery life will be robust, supporting 6.5 hours of talk time and up to 260 hours on standby. Of course, heavy Wi-Fi use could dramatically reduce these figures. You'll be able to charge the phone through a laptop USB port as well as a normal outlet.

Although HP will focus on selling to the enterprise market, the phone will be available to individuals through carriers that have not yet been named. In the United States, the phone will be marketed as the iPaq 510 Voice Messenger; the model number will be 510 in Asia and 514 in Europe, HP officials say.

The first phones should appear this spring. Pricing has not been announced, but HP expects it to be in the US$300 to US$350 range.

The 3GSM show continues through Thursday.

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