Microsoft wins more souls for Stinger smart phones

Sendo will unveil a prototype of its Z100 smart phone Tuesday at the GSM World Congress in Cannes. The device has a colour display and uses Microsoft's software platform for such devices, code-named Stinger. Mitsubishi's European division Mitsubishi Electric Telecom Europe will develop a smart phone using Stinger.

Microsoft last year announced an agreement with South Korea's Samsung Electronics to produce Stinger-enabled mobile phones. Samsung will demonstrate a phone running Stringer at the mobile phone conference, Microsoft said. The Korean company will also launch a phone that incorporates Microsoft's Mobile Explorer 3.0.

"Our engineers will work together with Microsoft to develop a handset that will work on Stinger," said Nicolas Kenedi, spokesman for Mitsubishi, adding that a prototype of the phone will be displayed at the CeBIT tradeshow in Hanover, Germany in March.

The Mitsubishi device, which will combine the features of a PDA (personal digital assistant) and a mobile telephone, has yet to be given a name. It is scheduled to be released late 2001 for GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) networks and will be sold under Mitsubishi's Trium brand.

With Monday's announcement, Mitsubishi and Microsoft are expanding their existing relationship. Mitsubishi's Mondo, a voice-enabled PDA based on Microsoft's Pocket PC platform, is scheduled to be on store shelves in March, Kenedi said.

According to Microsoft, Sendo's Z100 weighs a mere 99 grams, which makes the prototype smaller and lighter than GPRS phones currently on the market. It features a 65,000-colour TFT (Thin Film Transistor) display with a resolution of 208 by 240 pixels. The Z100 plays music files in the MP3 (MPEG Audio Layer-3) and Microsoft's WMA (Windows Media Audio) formats. The device can be interconnected using USB (Universal Serial Bus), infra-red or a serial connection, and has a slot for expansion cards.

Sendo will start selling phones in Europe and Asia during the course of this year, according to a Microsoft release. Sendo also provides hardware to mobile phone operators, who sell the phones under their own brand.

Microsoft said the phones using Stinger will go into trials with operators in the next months. Amongst the testing operators are Germany's T-Mobil International, Spain's Telefónica and the UK's Vodafone Group. The software giant expects to see the first handsets on the market this year.

Microsoft is locked in a battle with Symbian to gain first-mover advantage in this new market for advanced mobile phones running embedded operating systems. The news comes one day before the GSM World Congress, a major mobile phone conference, is scheduled to open.

Symbian, with its EPOC operating system, has the support of a host of big-name players such as Ericsson, Kenwood, Matsushita Electric Industrial, Motorola, Nokia, Philips Consumer Electronics, Psion, Sanyo Electric and Sony.

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Joris Evers

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