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Wednesday, 23 October, 2002, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
Phone rivals fight it out for consumers
Serena and Venus Williams, BBC
Top tennis duo could soon be on your handset
The UK will see the debut of Microsoft's long awaited smartphone.

Microsoft is partnering with British mobile phone firm Orange to launch the device, codenamed Canary, in October.

The gadget is central to Microsoft's ambitions to become a force in mobile services and win customers away from rivals such as Nokia and SonyEricsson.

But Microsoft could find its ambitions come to nothing as its rivals already have huge numbers of customers using their phones.

Phone games

The colour screen phone that can handle streaming video clips was unveiled in London on 22 October.

Although gadgets that use Microsoft PocketPC software to drive a phone and handheld computer are already available, O2's XDA is one example, the Canary is slightly different.

The Canary is a dedicated smartphone and is a recognition by Microsoft, among others, that the growth in mobile data will be driven by day-to-day phone users rather than gadget lovers.

The numbers of handheld computers sold around the world is dwarfed by the numbers of mobile phones.

Figures from the GSM Association reveal that there are more than 1 billion users of mobile phones worldwide. By contrast the numbers of handheld computer users is thought to be in the low tens of millions.

Because of this more consumers will upgrade their phone to a device that can do e-mail, multimedia messaging, web browsing and has a basic diary on board than are likely to swap their handheld computer for one with a built-in phone.

In recognition of this, companies such as Nokia and SonyEricsson are starting to bring out handsets that add these new functions to small devices that are still recognisably phones.

The Canary smartphone is Microsoft's response to the efforts of these competitors. It is putting features in the phones that help them work with its familiar desktop software.

But the big problem Microsoft faces is that currently no-one uses its phones.

Although five manufacturers, including Samsung, Mitsubishi and Sendo, have signed up to make Microsoft smartphones, few operators are selling them on its behalf.

By contrast Nokia, SonyEricsson, Symbian and others already have products in consumers' hands and commitments from many operators to offer new gadgets to customers.

Nokia alone has a 35% share of the global handset market and its new phones which add cameras, diaries, address books and contacts to the basic handset are proving hugely popular.

Many operators are keen to take on these new phones because of the extra charges that consumers incur when they use new data services such as mobile web browsing or sending picture messages.

Nokia announced a deal this week with sports agency IMG that will make events and information about top athletes available via the Finnish firm's phones.

This week Symbian announced it had signed a deal with Samsung to produce handsets that use its software.

The Orange/Microsoft smartphone is due to go on sale in November.

See also:

18 Oct 02 | Business
19 Feb 02 | Science/Nature
19 Nov 01 | Science/Nature
25 Apr 02 | Science/Nature
20 Oct 02 | Technology
28 Sep 02 | Technology
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