Siemens, which coyly tells us that it "recently became"* the second largest (we presume "phone" is understood there) manufacturer in Europe, has signed on the dotted with Symbian. The company says it will use the Symbian platform for its next generation of smartphones...
...which rings a few bells round these parts. A quick trawl of The Register archives reminds us that back before Symbian was thought of, in the days when dinosaurs poked holes in your pockets, Bill Gates made a number of schmooze cruises through Europe soliciting business from the mobile phone biggies. During the trip we have in mind he pitched Nokia to such delirious effect that the company co-founded Symbian some months later, then he stopped off in Munich where Siemens (relation) was induced to enter a strategic relationship with Microsoft whereby the German company would use CE as its "standard platform for wireless devices, automobile systems, video phones, Internet devices, TV sets and cash registers."
It's the way Bill tells them. That Siemens deal clearly didn't come to anything on the wireless front, and Microsoft remains short of big names, despite its Stinger smartphone-related announcements at this week's GSM World Congress in Cannes. Today Microsoft is previewing "the first publicly announced manufacturers for the [Stinger] platform," Samsung and Sendo (which will be a new one on many of you).
No mention, strangely, of Sagem, the French manufacturer whose WA3050 "Stinger" smartphone was jointly announced with Microsoft in November last year, for shipment early this year. Microsoft certainly thought it was a good thingthen. No answer either from Sagem itself - sagem.com seemed not be be accepting connections at time of writing. Sagem's online boutique (sagem-online.com) is however knocking out mobile phones like mad - but not WA3050s.
Of the protagonists of today's grand unveiling, Samsung is a trusty long-term Microsoft smartphone ally - but Sendo? Sendo is a relatively new company with an HQ in Birmingham, UK, an APEC HQ in Hong Kong and manufacturing in mainland China. It kicked off in August 1999, recently collected a smallish British government grant to help fund a new R&D centre, and did a deal to supply Virgin with mobile phones last year.
It seems to be aiming at becoming a high volume, low cost producer of mobiles, and is backed (35 per cent stake) by Hong Kong's CCT Telecom, whose Guangdong plant is being used for manufacturing.
The Sendo Stinger product is aimed to ship by autumn, and will be triband GSM 900, 1800 and 1900, so will work in the US (the Sagem one we appear not to have prepared earlier didn't). It'll have a colour TFT display, MP3 and Windows Media play capability, USB, IR and RS232 (what, no Bluetooth?) and memory card socket. It's intended to be the "smallest and lightest GPRS triband smartphone," but that in itself raises a few questions.
The handset manufacturers have as yet been unable to deliver adequate performance and serious battery life from GPRS units, and it's not entirely clear how and when they're going to figure their way out of that one. Early to market and small of footprint might therefore not turn out to be particularly smart. ®
*Siemens really did wake up one morning and find it was Europe's second largest handset manufacturer, owing to Ericsson's decision to retire, maimed.