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Mitsubishi dials up Pocket PC with phone-handheld combo

The Trium Mondo is a combination phone and handheld computer that uses Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system.

Mitsubishi killed two birds with one device Wednesday.

Trium Mondo The Japanese company introduced the Trium Mondo, a combination phone and handheld computer that uses Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system.

This is not the first such combination product to come from the Pocket PC ranks. But it is Mitsubishi's first foray into handheld computers.

The Mondo is also part of Microsoft's ongoing efforts to piggyback onto the lucrative mobile phone market, a move ARS analyst Matt Sargent says has been a long time coming. Mobile phones now ship by the hundreds of millions each year.

"Microsoft is trying to provide a device that integrates wireless because 'Stinger' isn't ready yet and won't be for a while," Sargent explained.

Stinger is the code name for Microsoft's upcoming operating system for so-called smart phones, which combine the functions of a cell phone and a personal digital assistant.

Mondo differs from Stinger, which will look like a cell phone, because its design is more reminiscent of a PDA.

"Form factor is really the distinguishing feature," said Mary Starman, Microsoft's product manager for mobile devices. "This is for those who want a PDA with voice capabilities...Stinger is for those who want a phone first."

Mondo is not alone
The Mondo won't be the only phone-PDA combo out there.

In November, Sagem announced a similar Pocket PC device, the WA3050. It will cost about $780 and soon be available in Europe and Asia.

Handspring recently released the $299 VisorPhone module. The VisorPhone fits into the Springboard expansion slot on Handspring Visors, which are based on the Palm operating system.

In addition, Palm and Hong Kong-based RealVision announced last year that they are working on a device that will attach to a Palm V and add voice capabilities.

Mondo's price has not been set yet and will vary depending on the carrier. It will ship in Europe in the first quarter, Starman said. In Europe, Mitsubishi will sell the product under the Trium brand name. The device could eventually come to the United States as well.

The Mondo uses Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) and General Packet Radio Switching (GPRS) networks and is based on a 166-MHz Intel processor. Mondo owners will be able to use a headset with the device and to make calls directly by selecting a name from the address book.

According to Mitsubishi, the company is working with applications providers to bring full Web browsing and video-clip viewing to the Mondo.