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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 14 November, 2000, 14:23 GMT
Handheld combat
Ericsson Phone Personal Organiser
The convenience of the mobile internet will secure its future
A battle to control the next stage of the internet's development is pitting Europe against the US, and the first shots are being fired in Las Vegas. The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones reports.

At the annual Comdex computer exhibition the hottest topic this year is the mobile internet.

A whole host of appliances are on show which promise to give consumers internet access without having to plug anything in.

Many of these products are a long way from what we have come to recognise as a computer.

There is a Polaroid camera which can dial up the net and send photos to your family, and a whiteboard which can decode a teacher's scrawl and load it onto a web page.

But most interest centres on the coming marriage between the electronic organiser and the mobile phone.

Nokia's communicator, already featured in a James Bond film, dates back a few years but now Ericsson has come up with a much smaller all-purpose mobile.

The R380 has already been seen in Europe but caused quite a stir amongst Americans.

It allows the user to consult a diary, write notes, and access Wap-enabled websites, as well as just making a phone call.

Microsoft Powered Palms
Microsoft has now come up with Pocket PC - and it seems to be catching on

According to Ericsson's president Kurt Hellstrom: "The convenience of the mobile internet is something which is going to drive this on."

But a few yards away at one of the busiest stands in the exhibition, Handspring is approaching mobile information from the other end.

Handspring's Visor organiser uses the Palm operating system and can add new functions via an expansion slot in the back.

Already outside firms are offering modems, global positioning devices and MP3 players.

Now Handspring is turning the Visor into a phone with a GSM module.

You can tap out a number on the Visor's screen and simply hold the device to your ear - or use a separate headset.

Handspring director Greg Shirai says different types of device will suit different lifestyles:

"Some people are just concerned that their phone should be as light as possible - others want all the functions an organiser can offer."

While electronic organisers are spreading beyond gadget freaks and executives, they are far from being mass market items.

Forty times as many mobile phones are sold as organisers.

Now that the two are converging Europe may have an advantage.

Because European countries adopted a common standard - GSM - while the US allowed warring technologies develop, mobile phone use this side of the Atlantic has grown more quickly than in America.

That may mean a bigger market for devices which allow even more ways to be permanently connected to the information you need.

But one familiar US company cannot be ignored.

After repeated failures with software systems for handheld computers, Microsoft has now come up with Pocket PC - and it seems to be catching on.

Its stand at Comdex features a host of handhelds using the new operating system and offering features such as video replay and

So Europe's standard bearers had better watch out.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones
"At the annual Comdex computer exhibition the hottest topic this year is the mobile internet."


Mobile web worries
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13 Nov 00 | Business
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