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After building PDA (personal digital assistant) and cell-phone hybrids based on operating-system (OS) software from Microsoft Corp. and its rival Palm Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. said Thursday it is working on a device running Symbian Ltd.'s OS software.

The Seoul-based electronics company -- the world's fourth-largest mobile-phone maker in terms of units shipped, according to research firm Gartner Inc. and a key Microsoft partner in the mobile space -- is the first with plans to offer a portfolio of handsets with operating systems from the three archrivals.

"We are developing a Symbian-based smartphone," said Jay Yeo, product planning manager for Samsung's wireless terminal division, in an interview here at the CeBIT trade fair. "The software makers mind, but they can't force us to stick to one or two operating systems; we live in a free world."

Samsung will support the three platforms to offer the broadest choice possible to its customers, which will initially be corporate users, Yeo said. Users of PDAs based on Microsoft's Pocket PC OS will feel comfortable with a handset powered by Microsoft's SmartPhone 2002 OS, while Palm PDA users might prefer a Palm OS-based phone, he said.

Work just started on the phone-cum-PDA based on the Symbian software, so a release date is not available, said Yeo. Meanwhile, Samsung plans to introduce handsets based on Microsoft's SmartPhone 2002 OS, previously known by the codename Stinger, and on the Palm OS in Europe in the fourth quarter in time for the holiday shopping season, according to Yeo. Launch of a new Palm OS-based Samsung device on the U.S. market is imminent, he added.

Yeo showed a prototype of the SmartPhone 2002-based Samsung handset, a fliphone with a 176 by 220 pixel TFT (thin film transistor) display capable of displaying 65,536 colors. The device comes with flash memory and RAM, but Yeo declined to specify the amount of memory as that could change in the final product. The handset features a MultiMediaCard (MMC) slot for memory expansion, Yeo said.

Symbian software is used in mobile phones sold by some of its shareholders. The company, setup in 1998, is owned by L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co., Nokia Corp., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., Motorola Inc., Psion PLC and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications Ltd.

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