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Sendo sets date for smart phone redux

The U.K.-based cell phone maker says it will release a Symbian-powered smart phone this fall, after a falling-out with Microsoft over the now-abandoned Z100 Smartphone handset.

U.K.-based cell phone maker Sendo is launching a line of "feature phone" handsets and is planning to release a new smart phone this fall, following the demise of its Microsoft-powered Z100 handset.

In addition, the company says it plans to launch a smart phone developer program on Monday during the 3GSM Congress in Cannes, France, to boost the number of applications that will run on its smart phone handset when it arrives on the market.

Sendo, a start-up that focuses on making customizable handsets branded by network operators, made headlines late last year when a Smartphone relationship with Microsoft into mutual acrimony. Sendo later filed a lawsuit accusing Microsoft of a conspiracy to rip off Sendo's technology and give it to low-cost Taiwanese contract manufacturers, a charge Microsoft denies.

Sendo had already begun manufacturing the Z100 when the project was aborted, and there has been some speculation over whether Sendo could simply replace the handset's Windows CE operating system with that of Symbian, its new smart-phone partner. Sendo's CEO, Hugh Brogan, said that an OS switch is out of the question. "Even if we could, we wouldn't," he said.

The cell phone maker is planning to deliver a smart-phone software developer kit (SDK) in March, and is set to supply a full developer kit, including test hardware, in June.

Brogan said he "could not be more happy" with Symbian's cooperation on the new smart phone handset. He said that Sendo has more freedom to customize its smart phone because features such as multimedia messaging service (MMS) and Java support are already standard on Symbian. "We don't have to bring it up to the standard operators expect; we start from there," Brogan said. Sendo had added MMS and Java support to Microsoft's Smartphone 2002 through its own efforts.

Sendo has given away little about its new smart phone, other than that it will be based on the Symbian operating system and on Finnish cell phone company Nokia's Series 60 user interface. Series 60 is designed to be operated via the phone's keypad, rather than with a stylus.

In the more immediate future, Sendo is launching a line of "feature phones"--handsets with some added features, such as color screens and MMS. Smart phones generally have handheld, computerlike processing power and features.

The first of the new line is the M550, announced on Friday, a clamshell handset with a color screen, games and customizable polyphonic ringtones and graphics. It also supports EMS (enhanced messaging service), which allows M550 owners to send ringtones, simple graphics and customized text to other EMS handsets. Unlike MMS, EMS cannot handle photographs and sound recordings.

Sendo said it has priced the handset significantly below other color clamshell handsets, but did not reveal pricing specifics. At 82mm x 45mm x 19.6mm, the M550 is significantly smaller than other clamshell mobile phones, according to Brogan.

Sendo's CEO said that the company plans to launch four models of the feature phones this year.