Motorola/microsoft shock mobile phone industry

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In a move that has stunned the mobile phone industry, Motorola has announced it is teaming up with microsoft to produce a range of handsets that use the Windows Mobile operating system.

Although it was launched over a year ago Windows Mobile, which offers a truncated version of microsoft applications like Internet Explorer and Outlook, has not impressed many mobile phone manufacturers. So far it has only appeared on the high-end handset the SPV marketed in the UK by the Orange network. Most handset makers preferring to use the Symbian operating system as found on the Sony Ericsson P800, Nokia’s 7650 and Motorola’s recently launched A920.

Motorola is now promising a range of handsets in both the smartphone and PDA form factors.

First to launch is the MPx200, which goes on sale in the UK next month via the Orange network priced at around £230.

Essentially the phone is similar in terms functionality to the SPV. It does however boast a much sexier clamshell design and features a significantly faster processor, (200Mhz) and more memory (32MB RAM and 32MB ROM).

Initial impressions of the phone are that it is an absolute cracker. It is the first time a tiny clamshell handset has been able to offer the consumer PO3 email (though it can only access one account) and the Internet. Surprisingly Internet pages work reasonably well on its small screen too.

Other features include a Window Media player (which plays video and MP3/WMA music files), Java for gaming and personal information manager (PIM) software.

The phone comes with a pair of stereo earphones and a USB connector that not only allows information to be transferred to and from a PC but also, uniquely, recharges the phone at the same time.

The new processor also makes a huge difference to the speed of the phone’s data applications (one of the major criticisms of the original SPV).

Motorola, microsoft and Orange claim to be pitching the phone at mobile professionals. So there is a surprise in that it doesn’t feature Bluetooth connectivity.

Another key feature that is absent is an integrated camera – a clip-on camera will be available as an accessory (along with car kits, keyboards etc).

While this phone is certain to be huge in the USA, we aren’t quite sure how successful it will prove to be in the UK.

Mobile professionals in the market for data phones will probably prefer a handset with a larger screen. Also the absence of Bluetooth means it can’t be easily used in conjunction with PDAs like the Palm’s Tungsten T.

The lack of a camera (the next generation of handset will feature one) could also work against it.

Lastly Motorola/microsoft might have made an error in opting for Orange as its network provider. It already has a microsoft powered phone (the SPV2), which will retail for less than the MPx200 and feature an integrated camera.

Orange too has a formidable array of handsets this year – far superior to its rivals – and there’s a chance that the MPx200 might simply be eclipsed by sexier looking phones.

Still, with a few reservations, we were impressed by the microsoft’s operating system on the SPV. Motorola has now taken it to another level with the MPx200.

This is a great handset that deserves to be an enormous success. Whether the market for it is quite as big as the companies believe though remains to be seen.

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