New wireless devices, initiatives debut

Wireless industry leaders told 2000 attendees at the CTIA Wireless IT and Entertainment 2004 event in the US last week that they have plenty of optimism about future growth, as two companies announced advances in smartphone and wireless network technologies.

PalmOne launched the Treo 650 smartphone, which the vendor said gives users a full-featured mobile phone, e-mail access, a Palm OS organizer as well as messaging and Web access.

The announcement of the Treo 650 was one of many which focused either on products that provide secure e-mail or on applications used across wireless networks by handheld computers.

Separately, Intel joined with Clearwire to announce the development of broadband wireless via WiMAX networks. WiMAX is an emerging wireless standard designed to offer high-speed connections in fixed and mobile wireless networks.

Intel will invest a "significant" share of its $US150 million Intel Capital fund in Clearwire, Sean Maloney, executive vice president of the Intel Communications Group, said. The Intel Capital fund is used by the company to promote wireless networks worldwide. Maloney was joined by wireless industry pioneer Craig McCaw, the chairman and CEO of Clearwire.

Intel is developing its Rosedale wireless broadband chip for WiMAX products. WiMAX is based on the IEEE 802.16-2004 standard, and Rosedale is a "system on a chip" product.

PalmOne's Treo 650 is essentially an update of the Treo 600 first introduced in September 2003. It will feature a 320-by-320 pixel colour display, integrated Bluetooth technology and an improved camera for better video capture in low-light settings. It also will offer an easier-to-use Qwerty-style keyboard, an MP3 player and support for direct corporate e-mail access to Microsoft Exchange Server 2003.

The Treo 650 is due out in the US by the end of the year, with a worldwide rollout in 2005. Pricing was not announced.

Ed Colligan, president of PalmOne, said the Treo 650 brings users closer to the day when handheld smartphones, not PCs, will be the "centre of computing".

Intel's Maloney also hailed advances in handheld computing, noting that smartphones by 2007 will have the same memory and processing performance as PCs from the mid-1990s.

McCaw said he is committed to a future where wireless products continue to offer increased power at an affordable price, with cellular service cheap enough that users can more easily adopt it.

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