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Handspring offers PDA-cell phone sneak peek

VisorPhone, which will be officially unveiled Monday, is the handheld start-up company's first foray into wireless communications.

Visor's PDA phone Handspring is offering an early look at a new add-on cartridge that makes its handheld computer work just like a mobile phone.

VisorPhone, which will be officially unveiled Monday, is the handheld start-up company's first foray into wireless communications.

The cartridge, which plugs into the Visor's Springboard expansion slot, turns the personal digital assistant (PDA) into a cell phone. Existing products from Palm offer wireless Internet access, and Microsoft's Pocket PC has similar add-on options available in Europe.


Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney says most people are unlikely to trade in their cell phone and PDA for Handspring's upcoming combo. But it is viable for workers who use wireless phones at their desks instead of wired ones.

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The VisorPhone will be the first hybrid PDA to ship in the United States. The company expects to ship it by the end of the year.

As previously reported, the VisorPhone will be loaded with software designed to improve the typical cell phone interface, according to Handspring. Visor users will be able to select people from their address book and call them directly using the add-on cartridge. In addition, the $299 device will offer caller ID and alerts about missed calls.

The cartridge fits into the top of the Visor, like other Springboards. Other Springboard cartridges include a digital music player, games, a global positioning receiver and pager. After introducing the Visor last year, Handspring has acknowledged difficulties getting a variety of Springboard modules onto the market in the last several months.

Perhaps mindful of those delays, the handheld company will initially sell VisorPhone only through its own Web site. The cartridge, along with regional service plans from Bell South and Pacific Bell, will be sold directly through Handspring in the United States, the company said.