Your Pocket PC Is Ringing?

Tue. November 14, 2000 12:00 AM by Internet Wire

Paris - Europeans are lucky. They had good coffee before we did, the Eiffel Tower is right in their backyard, and they have shorter election cycles than the United States. Today, Europeans will also become the lucky recipients of the SAGEM WA3050, the industry's first dual-band GSM/GPRS phone-enabled Pocket PC. The SAGEM WA3050 enables customers to have live wireless access to information, including email, the Internet, time-sensitive corporate applications and high-end mobile phone capabilities.

"The WA3050 demonstrates the power and flexibility of the Pocket PC platform, because SAGEM has extended the range of the Pocket PC to include integrated wireless products that combine data and phone capabilities in one device," said Adam Anger, business manager, Mobile Devices Group, Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). "This new device from SAGEM offers all the capabilities of the Pocket PC platform plus the features of a high-end mobile phone in a single, integrated product."

The WA3050 measures only 5 1/8" by 3 1/6" by 2/3" -- and weighs less than half a pound. It comes equipped with 16 megabytes of memory and a high-resolution, grayscale touch screen interface rather than a numeric keypad. And the WA3050 comes preloaded with the Pocket versions of familiar Microsoft applications like Word, Excel, Outlook and Internet Explorer. It also features the Windows Media Player, which allows users to download and listen to Windows Media or MP3 files with a headset or on the integrated loudspeaker.

The WA3050 also has many of the conveniences of a high-end mobile phone. It can be used as a hands-free speakerphone, thereby enabling remote conference calling. Users can even download and customize ring tones.

The SAGEM WA3050 differs from traditional mobile phones and other Pocket PCs in several vital ways. Unlike some Pocket PCs, which can be wirelessly enabled via add-on peripherals to connect to phone networks, the SAGEM product is one integrated device. There's no need for expansion jackets, cable hook-ups or infrared connections to link to a wireless receiver. This makes the SAGEM product a much simpler and lighter device than some "two-body" solutions, with easier portability.

Unlike most mobile phones, the WA3050 offers real-time access to email and contacts with Pocket versions of Microsoft Outlook applications, plus the ability to securely surf standard Web sites with Pocket Internet Explorer. The WA3050 also supports Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) sites, which are Web sites specially designed for viewing on the small screens of mobile phones and handheld devices.

The WA3050 also allows users to access business applications that benefit from real-time connections to live data, notably those that link to the financial markets. The Pocket PC software that underlies the SAGEM WA3050 provides this live access through its support for dual-band Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) and General Packet Radio Services (GPRS) protocols. Dual band GSM is a wireless digital phone technology that is the predominant network system used in Europe and Asia. GPRS is an air link that allows increased data access speeds in wireless devices. In essence, GPRS takes GSM-inscribed messages and bundles them into packets, which can be sent at much higher speeds. GPRS also enables continuous flows of IP data packets over the system for such applications as Web browsing and file transfer.

Anger thinks that the SAGEM WA3050 will be very popular, especially with mobile professionals. "Many of us face the same challenge: We must use a handheld device to access bandwidth-intensive data on corporate intranet sites," he said. "On the SAGEM Pocket PC WA3050, delivering graphics and other high bandwidth data will be a greatly improved experience." At the same time, since it has phone capabilities, a user can hang up from that data connection and then have a conference call in a room that isn't equipped with a conference phone. And, of course, the device makes it simple to access email, calendar functions and other personal information systems."

Another user scenario that Anger foresees involves the financial industry. Day traders need access to the most up-to-date information possible. There are several companies in Europe and the United States that are already creating software for Pocket PCs that allows investors and day traders to establish a secure wireless connection to a financial markets reporting service, providing streaming, real-time information via a wireless network, according to Anger.

But Anger doesn't think devices like the SAGEM WA3050 will replace the need for separate handheld computers and mobile phones. "A user's primary needs will determine the kind of device he or she purchases," he said. "If a user regularly needs to transfer data across the Internet or input a lot of email, then a wireless Pocket PC is clearly superior. If they want a small phone to take anywhere they go, and only occasionally access information on the Internet, then a data-enabled phone remains a good choice. Many people will have both and use the right device for them at different times."

In the United States, the current method of wirelessly enabling Pocket PCs is through add-on solutions like wireless modems or by connecting devices to data-capable cell phones. SAGEM currently doesn't have plans to ship their WA3050 in the States. Europe and Asia are far more advanced in the development and implementation of wireless Internet services than North America, primarily because many of these regions use the uniform, Europe-wide GSM protocol. "In Europe, there's one standard that all the wireless operators provide service on," Anger said. "In contrast, there are multiple standards in the United States. Manufacturers have to decide which standard they want to use. They essentially have to place their bets on one set of standards. In these early days of wireless data, this makes it seem risky to bring a device like the WA3050 to the U.S."

In other words, if you bought a SAGEM WA3050 in Paris and brought it back to the United States, you'd have a fine Pocket PC, but you wouldn't have wireless connectivity or phone capabilities.

But never fear -- wireless connectivity on a Pocket PC is still possible in the United States. Next week at COMDEX, Microsoft will demonstrate a number of products that bring wireless access to the Pocket PC.

News, photos provided by Internet Wire.



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