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Sonic the Hedgehog burrows into iPaq

Sega signs a deal that will get its games onto Compaq Computer's iPaq, marking the first time Sega characters will appear on a handheld computer in the United States.

Sega has signed a deal that will get its computer games on handheld computers in the United States for the first time, the company said Thursday.

The company's U.S. division, Sega of America, will work with Fremont, Calif.-based Synovial to bring characters such as Sonic The Hedgehog to Compaq Computer's iPaq handheld.

The same Sega games are already on cell phones in the United States. For example, "Tetris" clone "Borakov" comes pre-installed on a phone made by Motorola and sold by Nextel Communications.

"Gamers can expect to see Sega content everywhere," Peter Moore, Sega of America president, said in a statement.

To play, gamers will need to install software from Synovial to create a Sega-friendly environment inside the iPaq. Three Sega games come embedded in the software, including "Sonic the Hedgehog" and "Baku Baku Animal." Other games can be downloaded from the Web for a fee.

Sega is one of the bigger names in the gaming business to push its games onto handhelds and wireless devices but certainly not the only one. Mobile game makers were once a small clan of companies such as nGame and Jamdat, which only made games for wireless devices. But now Sega and two other companies whose focus is primarily making games for PCs--Rage Software and Ubi Soft Entertainment--are also releasing games for handhelds.

Sega's announcement coincides with the building up and imminent launch of new, higher-speed phone networks that carriers claim will improve the quality and connection for cell phone calls, plus offer ways to get e-mails or surf the Internet at broadband speeds.

"The industry is seeing that just about everybody has a wireless device," said David Gasior, a spokesman for Synovial. "The impetus for these new telephone networks won't be voice calls. We see that gaming is one of those steps."

Games may play a role in spurring consumer interest in these new networks, but IDC analyst Keith Waryas said there are big hurdles to clear. One major stumbling block is the time it will take to launch the networks and then fix any bugs that surface. Such issues forced NTT DoCoMo in Japan to delay launching its high-speed network.