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Microsoft's Smart Phone Debuts In United States

Get ready for the battle of the Smart Phones.

Microsoft on Monday plans to debut its first U.S. model, built by Motorola, while Handspring this week also is expected to release its second-generation device, the Treo 600.

Motorola's MPx200 SmartPhone is scheduled to be available in the fourth quarter from AT&T Wireless and will work with the carrier's GSM and GRPS networks. Microsoft and AT&T Wireless, both of Redmond, Wash., inked an agreement last year to push wireless data communications over mobile devices. (See story.)

The device, which looks like a typical cellular flip-phone, can synchronize wirelessly with Microsoft Outlook via Exchange Server and supports wireless Web browsing, MSN Messenger and music playback formats. It also provides as SD expansion slot. Pricing was not available, but Ed Suwanjindar, Microsoft's mobile device product manager, said pricing is expected to be consistent with other high-end phones.

The MPx200 is smaller than the Smart Phone devices using the Palm operating system, primarily because it provides no data input method beyond the phone key pad. Microsoft said talk time for the phone is about 240 hours.

Handspring--in the final stages of being acquired by Palm--has streamlined its Treo 600, added an expansion slot and promised longer battery life, although Handspring has yet to say how much longer. The Treo 600 will work on Sprint's 1xRTT network.

Microsoft has been late to enter the U.S. Smart Phone market, which so far has been dominated by a variety of devices that run the Palm and Symbian operating systems. But Peter Nelson, president of Advanced Computer Resources, a Nashua, N.H.-based solution provider said there's still plenty of room for innovation in the space.

"We see several areas where everyone is falling short," said Nelson. "Nobody seems to be have all the features we are looking for: an expansion slot, GPS data capture, digital picture capability, cell phone and PDA."

One other vendor may creep into the Smart Phone space as well. One solution provider is keeping a close eye on Dell, which has been courting solution providers to resell it's current Pocket PC model.

Additionally, Suwanjindar said Motorola also plans at some point to release a Pocket PC device. Although he declined to provide specifics, Suwanjindar said Motorola could provide a new look to the Pocket PC line, which has been criticized because so many vendors have released products that contain duplicate feature set and form factors. About Motorola, Sunwanjindar said, " I think there is some room for them to have some unique new devices."

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