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Danger holds back Hiptop handheld

The company now says that U.S. customers won't get their hands on the device until this fall. Europeans may have to wait until at least 2003.

Danger plans to announce Tuesday that Hiptop, its combination of cell phone and Web-browsing handheld, will not arrive in the United States until this fall, while Europeans will have to wait until at least 2003.

Danger said it is in talks with Orange, the No. 2 European carrier, to bring the device to Europe in 2003. In the United States, T-Mobile (formerly known as VoiceStream) will be the first carrier to offer the company's signature device.

However, as previously reported, the Hiptop is going to be later than expected in hitting the U.S. market. Danger now says that U.S. customers won't get their hands on the device until this fall, despite earlier promises that the Hiptop would be available this summer. Orange and T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telecom are both investors in Danger.

The eagerly anticipated device has a keyboard and a black-and-white screen that pops up for using e-mail, AOL Instant Messenger and the Internet. Because much of the work of processing Web pages and other information is done on Danger's servers, the device itself uses comparatively less powerful--and therefore cheaper--components than competing products.

Danger executives declined to discuss specific timing of T-Mobile's launch, referring questions on that as well retail prices and service rates to T-Mobile. A T-Mobile spokeswoman declined to comment on those issues.

Industry sources have said T-Mobile is expected to offer the Hiptop, which it will brand the T-Mobile Sidekick, with some cell phone minutes and unlimited use of data features such as e-mail and Web browsing for about $40 a month. Danger executives have said previously that the device is designed to be sold for $200.

The company equates the device with a razor, with the monthly services being the razor blades on which Danger would earn revenue.

"We want to give away as many razors as possible," Danger CEO Andy Rubin said on a conference call with reporters Monday.

The company designed the Hiptop but relies on its carrier partners to form contracts to get them manufactured. Rubin said that contract manufacturer Benchmark Electronics is currently making devices for T-Mobile, while Flextronics is also expected to make future devices.

Danger is also announcing several partnerships that it says will eventually allow customers to download games as well as access business e-mail and other corporate data from behind their company's firewall. Danger said its entertainment software partners include UIEvolution, Upoc and nGame, while Seven and Pumatech are developing ways for Hiptop owners to gain access to corporate data.