Microsoft's new device: Talk to the hand

Joining the budding market for combination devices, the software giant and a French phone maker will offer a handheld computer with a built-in cell phone and Net access.

Joining the budding market for combination devices, Microsoft and a French phone maker will offer a handheld computer with a built-in cell phone and Net access.

The device, based on Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system, will go on sale in parts of Europe and Asia in January, the software giant said Thursday.

French handset maker Sagem is developing the combination phone-personal digital assistant, which uses Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) and General Packet Radio Switching (GPRS) standards. It will be sold via a number of carriers in France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Along with handling voice calls and offering typical handheld features such as an address book and calendar, the Sagem WA3050 has a wireless connection for access to email and the Internet. The device has a suggested price of $782 (6,000 French francs), although the price will vary depending on the carrier.

The handheld-phone will deliver "Microsoft's vision of information access anytime, anywhere, and from any device," Microsoft general manager Hjalmar Winbladh said in a statement.

Eventually, Microsoft plans to bring a similar device to the United States, although the company did not give any details or a timetable.

In September, Handspring announced the VisorPhone, an add-on that turns a Visor handheld into a GSM phone. The unit is slated to go on sale by the end of the year.

Kyocera plans later this month to debut the Smartphone, a combination of a Palm handheld and cell phone and the successor to Qualcomm's PDQ phone.

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