HP brings hw6500 iPaqs to U.S. with Cingular

PDA companies dial into the phone market with new class of devices

Cingular Wireless will be the first U.S. carrier to sell Hewlett-Packard's new iPaq hw6500 series phones, the companies are expected to announce Tuesday at Gartner's Symposium/ITXpo 2005.

The hw6500 iPaqs have been on sale in Europe for several months, but they will now make an appearance in the U.S. using Cingular's EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution), a faster version of the widely used GSM/GPRS (Global System for Mobile Communications/General Packet Radio Service) networks.

Cingular has EDGE networks in 13,000 U.S. cities, said Jeff Bradley, vice president of business data services for Cingular. EDGE networks, which deliver download speeds of up to 384Kbps, are viewed as a stepping-stone to higher-speed UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) and HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) networks that are still a few years away from becoming widespread in the U.S.

Now that most analysts, and buyers, have signaled the end of the traditional personal digital assistant (PDA), PDA companies such as HP, Palm, and others have dialed into the phone market. A new class of devices called either smart phones or wireless PDAs is becoming more prevalent. These devices blend the ability to run sophisticated applications over wireless networks with voice capabilities. The hw6500 series iPaqs represent the second generation of HP's efforts in this market.

The hw6515 comes with a 1.3-megapixel digital camera and an integrated GPS (global positioning system) device for navigation, while the hw6510 lacks those features. This will be the first time that Cingular has released a phone with GPS capabilities, a feature that is very popular in Europe.

It's also the first time that HP has integrated GPS technology into one of its iPaqs, said Ted Clark, senior vice president and general manager of HP's mobile computing global business unit. Certain mobile users, such as insurance claim inspectors and business travelers, are drawn to GPS technology, he said, but it will also appeal to consumers who get lost on the way to the grocery store.

Customers can choose between push e-mail software from Good Technology and Cingular's Xpress Mail. Push e-mail software allows users to have their e-mail "pushed" to their mobile devices from behind firewalls. Research in Motion's BlackBerry software is a leader in this market.

Cingular's Xpress Mail is more limited in scope than Good Technology's software, Bradley said. Xpress Mail is essentially a mail forwarding system and is designed more for individual users than for IT departments, he said.

Both devices come with integrated Bluetooth chips and Intel's 312MHz PXA272 processor. Each iPaq also features 128MB of memory, 64MB of ROM, and 64MB of RAM. Users can access 55MB of the 64MB of ROM, a number which includes 12MB dedicated to the iPaq File Store program.

Neither device features Wi-Fi connectivity, which could be found in the h6300 series of iPaqs. Palm has also chosen to leave Wi-Fi connections out of its Treo smart phones.

Wi-Fi is a nice thing to have, but HP wanted to get this product to market very quickly and decided to forgo the technology, Clark said. The iPaqs do come with an SDIO (secure digital I/O) slot that could be filled with a Wi-Fi expansion card.

HP plans to release another set of iPaq PDA/phone devices in January, according to sources familiar with the company's plans. The hw6700 iPaqs will come with an integrated Wi-Fi chip as well as a new version of the Windows Mobile operating system.

Both hw6500 devices will cost $449 with a two-year contract, a Cingular spokesman said.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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