A year ago, the idea of the personal mobile gateway was just a piece of speculative fiction from IXI. Suddenly, both Motorola and Samsung have launched conspicuously similar bits of technology around the concept.
The concept is ingenious. Instead of having a single device which attempts to do everything from phone, PDA, mobile camera, mobile browser and SMS portal, the IXI Mobile solution - now adopted by Samsung - is to have a central wireless unit, and several optimised peripherals.
Strikingly, on the same day that Samsung and IXI Mobile announced their collaboration at CeBIT, Motorola has leaked plans for a startlingly similar range of products which it will show, next week, in New Orleans at a "fashion display" during the CTIA conference.
The main difference is simple enough: the Samsung device is a working prototype which should ship later this year. The Motorola family is purely a design-concept demonstration, which sources suggest won't ship for another two years.
The key to both families is Bluetooth, which links all the devices together into a personal-area network.
The "Personal Mobile Gateway" concept from IXI Mobile, as adopted by Samsung, doesn't require Samsung to make all the components. Instead, it has built what looks like a phone. Inside what is otherwise just another Bluetooth-enabled phone, however, is the software produced by IXI - which allows it to connect to a range of specialist products.
The Motorola devices are built around a "Wearable Digital Assistant" instead, which looks like a phone, but without a keyboard - it is supposed to have "advanced voice recognition" features.
The Motorola range, designed by Frog Design, has been leaked to PhoneScoop and is very clearly based on the same types of concept. There are even some directly parallel devices in both ranges; for example, a wrist-watch like device for reading messages off, and a bluetooth pen.
At the CeBIT show in Hannover, Samsung is showing its PMG phone - and also, some other peripherals designed-for-PMG products. The Samsung SGH-X410, the world?s first PMG Phone, is a tri-band GSM/GPRS with 65k colours, Bluetooth and 40 polyphonic ring tones.
However, at last month's 3GSM Congress, IXI Mobile showed a working PMG setup with prototypes of "sleek" add-ons from several manufacturers, including a Seiko watch, and a Lite-on phone - as well as a working games machine.
The full list of IXI-based devices before Samsung, was:
- Game Park ?designed for PMG? handheld gaming consoles give users the ability to receive new games over the air, post high scores and compete against other players
- HIT Incorporated?s 'designed for PMG' Messaging Pens to allow users to record and email spoken messages
- Infohand 'designed for PMG' digital cameras to capture high quality images and instantly transmit them to a web site and to other 'designed for PMG' devices for immediate viewing
- Lite-On Technology Corporation's PMG device and 'designed for PMG' phone and a separate messaging terminal featuring IM (Instant Messaging), SMS, and e-mail
- Sanyo's is 'series of conceptual models of new mobile devices codenamed "Alviss" which consists of a new collection of credit card size wireless terminals (phone, emailer, photo viewer, keyboard, voice recorder and digital camera) and a Personal Mobile Gateway (PMG)
- Seiko Instruments' designed for PMG watch that can receive SMS messages, ring tone and logo downloads, display caller identification and incoming SMS alerts and can also check daily agendas.
The Samsung announcement, however, is seen as the big breakthrough.
"Samsung, as a mobile communications trend-setter, offers a wide variety of products designed to be at the centre of peoples lives both in their homes and when they are mobile," said Amit Haller, President and CEO of IXI Mobile. "As the inventor and pioneer of the PMG, we are very pleased to be working with Samsung to enable the introduction of new and innovative wireless products that greatly enhance the users? mobile experience."
For more information on the PMG, visit www.ixi.com/PMG