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Danger puts on shades for Europe

The start-up adds a color screen to its Hiptop in a bid to sign up European cellular carriers for the combination cell phone-handheld device and its software.

Danger, the developer of the Hiptop mobile device, is turning to color to woo European cellular carriers.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based start-up demonstrated an unfinished color-screen version of the Hiptop, a combination cell phone and Web-browsing handheld device, to potential European customers this week at the annual 3GSM World Congress cellular industry conference in Cannes, France. Currently only a monochrome Hiptop is available in the United States. The prototype would be the first color device from Danger, which develops software and services for wireless carriers.

"The market in Europe has gone from monochrome to color, which is one of the reasons we don't have a device in that market," said Danger CEO Hank Nothhaft in an interview with CNET News.com. "It was a calculated risk to demo the device?if we're this far along, you can anticipate that we will have a color device ready by the end of the year."

The European cellular market is further along than the U.S. market in terms of offerings and subscriber adoption of advanced cell phones and services. Danger has yet to sign a European carrier as a customer for its wireless services and device, though it has signed one major U.S. carrier, T-Mobile. T-Mobile distributes the monochrome Hiptop under the name Sidekick. The venture arm of T-Mobile's German parent is an investor in Danger, as is European cellular carrier Orange.

By previewing a color device in Europe, Danger runs the risk of slowing sales in the United States as consumers may choose to wait to purchase the color model, rather than the monochrome ones now available.

However, Nothhaft stressed that the color device was a prototype and had not been approved by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and was not in production.

Nothhaft could not comment on the pricing of the color device.

Danger also is developing many new features for the Hiptop, said Nothhaft, who added that the company will release a software development kit for Java developers in the next 30 days. In addition to the color display, the prototype device demonstrated in Cannes has a tri-band radio.

"We're in a position to launch in several countries in Europe by the end of the year," said Nothhaft. The company had previously estimated that it could sign three to five carriers this year. Nothhaft added that it was on track to be on the upper end of that estimate and under ideal conditions it could exceed those numbers.

Earlier this month, the company received a $35 million in funding, which it will use to try to sign up new wireless carrier and hardware partners.