Exclusive Next year should see a battle royale between the smartphone manufacturers, with a clutch of new converged devices hitting the market. Thanks to a variety of industry sources, we can give several of these projects a public airing for the first time.
Almost all of these devices are based on Texas Instruments' OMAP platform, which of course is based on ARM processor cores. And several use the 'Hurricane' release of Symbian's eponymous phone OS, although that hasn't even been announced, let alone released yet.
And the networks are expecting quantities of 3G phones by the middle of next year: several of the following phones are 3G devices, too. And the whole point of 3G is to do something more than make a phone call...
Sony joined forces with Ericsson to produce mobile phones last year, but the first two smartphones are the product of projects already under way. Codenamed Stork, Sony's version will be a Symbian-based 3G phone for DoCoMo. That's not likely to ship outside Japan, however.
Ericsson's Linnea project is a flip phone successor to the R380, and will be the first jointly branded Sony/Ericsson smartphone. The R380 finally appeared fifteen months ago, and despite a modest speed increase in September, looks long in the tooth. Especially set aside Ericsson's new little number the dazzling T68, which you can read about here. Linnea uses the Hurricane cut of the Symbian OS, but unlike its predecessor, the screen stays in portrait mode when the lid's flipped open.
Having axed its Project Odin joint venture with Psion amid much acrimony, Motorola has two smartphones in the wings. One, codenamed Paragon, is to be based on Hurricane, the other more modest device uses an in-house Motorola OS. The latter is more phone than PDA, apparently, but both share the same radio interface.
Motorola is supplying Hutchison with 3G devices phones.
We've received one sighting of a Samsung phone that our informant told us looked like a Microsoft Stinger device. In order to combat the major players creating Symbian, Bill Gates directive was to work "hardcore" with the CDMA manufacterers, so this isn't much of a surprise. Samsung is Korean, CDMA is one place outside the US where CDMA is popular, so it figures that Samsung will be the standard-bearer for Stinker in the US.
British-based Sendo says that its Microsoft-based device will ship by the end of Q1. Which we suggest could be a tad optimistic, if the prototype we played with in November was anything to go by. Even with the help of Sendo's CEO, we couldn't transmit an SMS message: the text input was displayed in strange new character set we'd never seen before. Stinker smartphones were originally supposed to ship this autumn.
The most eagerly awaited new devices will be from Nokia. It's planning a cut down version of the 7650, without the camera, but using the same Series 60 user interface. That's called Project Cameron, which must be an example of the profoundly ironic Finnish humour at work: Camera-off would be more a more accurate moniker. And being announced, although possibly not shipping until 2003 will be Hilden, the successor to the Nokia 9210, a single-chip communicator
There's more too. At its Developer Conference in Barcelona last month, Nokia showed a product grid with most of the spaces left blank. One entire category has yet to be populated: "media phones". Nokia already has a phone with a full keyboard that's an MP3 player and radio, the 5510. (Our US readers, who may not have seen this before, ought to check it out, if only for its radical industrial design).
There'll be another significant difference in next year's models. The industry buzz is about a new way of manufacturing LCDs so the screen reaches the edge of the device.
That leaves one loose end to tie up...
It's the next version of the Symbian OS. In contrast to earlier versions of the OS, which arrived with full fanfare and press releases, the phone companies have been working with milestone releases of Hurricane, apparently at their request. Hurricane is due to be officially announced around February.
This represents a major and as yet unannounced strategy shift for Symbian, but then its Symbian's job to keep handset companies happy. Last week Symbian's marketing chief Mark Edwards told us "our focus on has been to keep our heads down and working away on products, which we'll seen in 2002". He said Symbian would be more active in the US in 2002, despite recent cuts, and that it marketing would be led by licensees. He added that the new strategy would be unveiled (with fanfare and press release) at one of the major wireless events early next year.
But that's enough codenames, for now. ®