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Qualcomm merges phone, handheld

Qualcomm will come out with a combination digital phone and handheld digital assistant based around 3Com's Palm OS.

Qualcomm will come out with a combination digital phone and handheld digital assistant based around 3Com's Palm operating system in the first half of 1999, a merger of two executive toys that could define the shape of things to come.

The Qualcomm "pdQ" Smartphone is the culmination of a design dream that has been

Qualcomm pdQ Smartphone
Qualcomm pdQ Smartphone
floating around the hardware community for over a year, sources have previously told CNET

Designers have been particularly keen on marrying the nearly ubiquitous cellular phones used by businesses worldwide with the data collection and storage features of 3Com's increasingly popular PalmPilot handheld companion device.

To wit, the Smartphone is much like a PalmPilot handheld comptuer but with an antenna and a folding telephone keypad--or, conversely, a cell phone with a screen in the middle, depending on your perspective. Users can access email and view Web sites, as well as store address information with the built-in software.

Qualcomm's decision to license the PalmPilot technology shows that large cell phone makers aren't flocking to Microsoft's Windows CE operating system, which the software titan has positioned for use in everything from cell phones to set-top computers and game consoles.

Cell phone giants Nokia and Ericsson earlier this year joined British handheld manufacturer Psion in a joint venture to combine the EPOC operating system currently used in handheld devices with cell phone technology.

For handheld functions, the Smartphone pretty much works the same way as a PalmPilot. Users key in functions and commands with a stylus, and synchronizing data with the desktop PC is also possible. Applications that run on standard PalmPilots will work on the new device, the company said. The attached keypad, however, is for the phone functions.

Measuring 6.2-inches long, 2.5-inches wide and weighing 8.2 ounces, the device is larger and slightly heavier than the average cutting-edge cell phone in order to accommodate a screen, which sits in the center of the device.

The device does represent a slimming down from previous generation devices such as Nokia's 9000 Communicator combination cell phone, which uses a keypad for data entry and weighs in at 14 ounces.

Two versions will be released in the first half of 1999, Qualcomm said. The pdQ Smartphone 800 will be a combination Palm computer and digital/analog cell phone while the more jet-set pdQ 1900 will be a pure digital phone. No pricing was announced.