HTC To Build Windows-Based Palm Treo 670/700?

EU Rules HTC are rumoured to have won the contract to manufacture the much-hyped Windows Mobile-based version of Palm’s Treo smart phone.

The combination of Windows OS and the Treo’s fabulous form factor could prove a real market winner, although the device’s release is believed to some way off.

An article in the DigiTimes Website reported that the Treo/HTC hybrid was announced in the Chinese-language newspaper the Commercial Times.

HTC To Build Windows-Based Palm Treo 670/700?The Taiwan-based High Tech Computer (HTC) firm already manufactures its own popular suite of Windows Mobile-based smart phones and PDA-style communicators, which go under a mass of different names worldwide, depending on the mobile networks operators and handset vendors.

Their big-selling models include the XDA Mini (MDA Compact/ HTC Magician/ i-mate JAM/Qtek s100), XDASII (Qtek 2020/i-mate/Orange SPV M1000/Movistar tsm 500) and XDAIIs (MdaIII/iMate PDA2k/Qtek 9090/HTC Blue Angel/Audiovox 6600/Siemens SX66/Orange SPV M2000).

HTC also undertakes contract manufacturing on behalf of a number of partners, and was said to be producing the Palm OS-based Treo 650 back in September 2004.

Rumours quickly spread that HTC would be creating a Windows Mobile-based Treo called the Treo 670, with a host of fuzzy images purporting to be the new device appearing on the Web.

Both Palm and HTC have staunchly refused to confirm their collaboration.

There’s no denying that HTC would be a logical choice to create a Windows Mobile-based Treo, with some pundits suggesting that the company may have lent some Windows Mobile development expertise to Palm’s design team.

The Commercial Times article suggests that HTC may well have designed the 670 itself, working to the parameters of the standard Treo feature-set and case design.

HTC To Build Windows-Based Palm Treo 670/700?Just as we went to press, another rumour flashed across the Web, with Cool Tech Times showing a fairly convincing photograph of what it reckons is the new Treo 700.

Naturally, large opencast excavations of salt are needed when it comes to these things, but for the record the site claims that the Treo will feature a 1.3 megapixel camera with 8x digital zoom and EVDO capability (EVDO stands for Evolution Data Only, and is the wireless broadband protocol of choice for CDMA networks).

Although the design could have come straight off the screen of some time-rich spoddy Photoshop kid (and we definitely have some doubts about its authenticity), it’s still a pretty looking affair, reflecting the strong points of the Treo’s long standing design ethos.

Whatever the final Treo looks like, it’s only Palm’s hopeless feet-dragging over implementing consumer-demanded features like proper Wi-Fi support that reluctantly sent us to the Windows dark side a few months ago, so whenever the next Treo 670/700/whatever-you-want-to call-it ever surfaces, we’ll take a boxful please!

Microsoft Maps WiFi For Alternative GPS System

Microsoft Maps WiFi For Alternative GPS SystemTrying to work out the law surrounding this Wi-Fi malarkey seems to be a tricky business.

As we reported earlier, it seems that walking around residential streets looking for a Wi-Fi connection is definitely A Very Bad Thing and liable to land you with a trouble.

But if you’re Microsoft, then you’re apparently free to dispatch cars all over US towns and suburbs to trawl for the signals sent out by the millions of short-range home and office WiFi networks.

Microsoft’s somewhat unexpected move – soon to be repeated in the UK and elsewhere – is part of a plan to create a ground-based location system as an alternative to the GPS satellite system.

Microsoft Maps WiFi For Alternative GPS SystemAccording to an article in the Financial Times, Microsoft says it has now built a database containing the whereabouts of “millions” of WiFi networks.

Naturally, privacy groups are more than a little concerned about Microsoft sniffing about the hedgerows and alcoves of private networks, but the company claims that it has collected only the unique identifier (MAC address) of each Wi-Fi network and that this cannot be traced to an address or an individual user.

Microsoft says that by recording the position of every MAC address on a giant map, it had created a positioning system that would make it possible for anyone with a WiFi-enabled laptop to flip out their machine and identify their location to within 30.5 metres.

We think location-based information and services are going to be huge and an alternative way of locating yourself without the need for GPS is welcome.

Where this WiFi-based locating will work particularly well is in cities where GPS doesn’t work too well, due to its signal being blocked by the tall buildings, and there a strong concentration of WiFi connections.

Microsoft tracks WiFi for new mapping system [FT]

MSN Virtual World Goes Live, Apple Vanishes

MSN Virtual World Goes Live, Apple VanishesMicrosoft has launched the first public beta of its Virtual Earth, an online mapping application overlaying satellite images with local searches and maps.

MSN’s Virtual Earth will provide both street-map and satellite views of locations and serve up driving directions between places, competing directly with Google’s popular “Google Maps” service.

Virtual Earth has a trick up its sleeve through its ability to transform Wi-Fi enabled PCs into “location-determining devices” without the need for any separate hardware, as we reported earlier.

The system works by noting the latitude and longitude of available Wi-Fi access points and then triangulating a user’s location after consulting Microsoft’s huge database of router MAC addresses.

A user’s current location is then highlighted onscreen with subsequent search results tailored around that location.

MSN Virtual World Goes Live, Apple VanishesVirtual Earth will also have the capability to visually point out locations for ATMs, restaurants, and petrol stations – something that the rival Google Maps service has been able to do since incorporating satellite imagery in April this year.

“MSN Virtual Earth provides a deeply immersive search experience that lets people see what it’s like to be in a location and easily explore what they can do there,” purred Stephen Lawle, general manager of the Microsoft Mappoint business unit.

The service which currently shows US-based satellite images only and users must download the Microsoft Location Finder client application access the location-finding services.

Microsoft plans to knock out updated versions of Virtual Earth every four months, with the next beta release set to incorporate bird’s-eye imagery licensed from Pictometry International which will add cities, landmarks and points of interest to the product.

Microsoft also plans to integrate traffic data and weather data to the service in the coming months.

MSN Virtual World Goes Live, Apple VanishesMac users, however, will have to wait until autumn for a version that runs on their machines.

MSN Virtual Earth project manager Mark Law has insisted that MSN Virtual Earth is not a purely consumer-based site only, adding that Microsoft will be making the application-programming interface available to developers.

Microsoft has said that future versions of Virtual Earth will allow users to create their own interactive maps, and add their own reviews of restaurants and other places.

MSN Virtual World Goes Live, Apple VanishesWags on the Internet are claiming that Microsoft has virtually wiped Apple off the face of the Web, noting that Apple’s Silicon Valley headquarters – which can be seen in their full glory on Google Maps – appears as nothing more than a deserted parking lot in Virtual Earth.

Microsoft insisted that because the service was still in its testing phase, it’s just a coincidence that they used older, black-and-white photographs to display the barren wasteland around Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California in 1991.

Others might put it down to wishful thinking.

MSN Virtual Earth

Motorola’s Q RAZR Smartphone Guns For Blackberry / Treo

Motorola's Q RAZR Smartphone Guns For TreoBilled as the “thinnest, lightest, coolest QWERTY on the Planet”, the new Q phone from Motorola has set a few hearts pounding in Chez Digi-Lifestyles.

Claimed to be fifty percent thinner than its top competitors, the lightweight Q is based on Motorola’s successful RAZR-thin design and offers a full QWERTY keyboard, electro-luminescent keys, one-handed navigation thumbwheel and an internal antenna.

The device sports a large high-resolution display (320 x 240 pixels, 65K TFT) with a l.3 mega pixel still/video camera (with photo lighting) onboard, and the whole caboodle is powered by the new Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system.

The Moto Q comes stuffed with multimedia support, playing back iMelody, MIDI, MP3, AAC, WAV, WMA, WAX, QCELP audio files, GIF87a, GIF89a, JPEG, WBMP, BMP, PNG photo files and supports H.263, MPEG-4, GSM-AMR, AAC, WMV video formats.

Motorola's Q RAZR Smartphone Guns For TreoThere’s a Mini-SD slot provided for extra storage and connectivity is taken care of via Bluetooth, IrDA and mini-USB.

High flying execs too busy to even touch their Moto will appreciate the voice-activated dialling, hands-free multi-tasking, speakerphone and built-in support for Microsoft Exchange 2003.

Ron Garriques, president mobile devices business, Motorola wasn’t one to hold back the hysterical hyperbole: “Wickedly cool – when’s the last time you heard those words used to describe a QWERTY device?”

“Probably never. At least until now.”

Motorola's Q RAZR Smartphone Guns For Treo“With the Moto Q, we’ve combined the best voice, data and design technology in one ultra-thin, intelligent, hard-working, and incredibly must-have device. Today’s office space has the potential to be any place you want it to be with Q.”

Err, thanks for that Ron. But we won’t be calling a QWERTY device “wickedly cool” until it comes with built in Wi-Fi.

Motorola's Q RAZR Smartphone Guns For TreoThe Moto Q is expected to be available in Q1 2006.

Although it’s clearly trying to get a piece of the lucrative Blackberry market, we reckon the collars will be getting sweatiest around the Palm Treo boardroom.

And that’s not a very pleasant thought.

Moto Q phone

Children’s GPRS Tracking Service On Sale In The UK

Children's GPRS Tracking Service On Sale In The UKKidsOK, a tracking service that lets parents locate their child using a mobile phone, has gone on sale in the UK today,

Created by mTrack Services, the firm claim that they can establish the location of a mobile phone within 60 seconds.

Concerned/nosey parents can ‘ping’ their child’s mobile by sending a text message to 60777 including the child’s name (e.g. texting “ping johnny” will instruct KidsOK to identify the position of the child’s phone).

Children's GPRS Tracking Service On Sale In The UKParents will then receive a text description and map of the location where there little Johnny’s phone currently resides, accurate to within 500m in built up areas using GSM location-based technology..

Richard Jelbert, CEO and co-founder of mTrack Services, says the service will offer parents an alternative to sending “embarrassing” calls or text messages to their children while they’re out playing with their mates.

The service has been endorsed by children’s charity Kidscape and all mobile numbers are encrypted by the KidsOK servers to ensure privacy.

Parents also have to go through Home Office approved security checks during registration before they are able to use the service.

Children's GPRS Tracking Service On Sale In The UKThe bit that may strike fear into parents trying to foist these phones on their offspring is that fact that kids have to opt in to the KidsOK service and they can turn off the service any time they like.

Like when they want to have fun.

The KidsOK pack, retailing for £39.95 (~US$70, ~€58), will include the first year’s subscription, three handsets enabled and the first ten pings.

Parents can purchase the packs throughout the UK from outlets such as Arcadia Outfit, Comet Destination, BHS, Boots, Millets, Blacks and The Link.

Children's GPRS Tracking Service On Sale In The UKLarger families can enable further handsets on payment of £4.95 p.a. per handset (~US$8.75, ~€7.25). Further ‘pings’ are purchased in bundles of 20 from KidsOK for £9.95 (~US$17.5, ~€14.5).

So far, O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone have enabled the service but presently children’s phones on Virgin and 3 cannot be located.

The service doesn’t require a PC or extra software, but parents using the service need their mobile phones to be enabled for WAP (GPRS).

mTrack Services have stated that each pack sold generates £1 towards the KidsOK Charitable Trust, providing donations to a variety of children’s charities and good causes.


Nokia And Wayfinder Introduces 6630 GPS Package

Nokia And Wayfinder Introduces 6630 GPS PackageNokia and Wayfinder Systems have proudly proclaimed the availability of the Nokia 6630 Navigation Pack, a compact smartphone-based navigation package for folks on the move.

The navigation package comes in three parts; the Nokia 6630 smartphone, a Nokia Wireless GPS Module and the Wayfinder Navigator application.

WayFinder isn’t unique in offering this application to the Nokia 6630, with other available including NaviCore, launched in the UK a few weeks ago. Having Nokia put their name to the Wayfinder Navigator will provide a sense of authority that competing products will find it hard to compete with.

Getting a little carried away, the announcement insists that the Nokia Navigation Pack “puts the world into people’s pockets”.

Although the idea of people flapping around with planet-threatening trousers amuses, all the package actually does is let users connected to the Nokia Wireless GPS Module access position and route information on their Nokia 6630 smartphone screens.

It’s a clever wee thing though, offering turn-by-turn voice instructions, searching for street addresses, restaurants and other points of interest with locations or points of interest shared by forwarding maps via MMS or email.

The Nokia 6630 Navigation Pack does not require fixed installations with the automatic settings configuration tool serving up maps from Wayfinder’s extensive catalogue, currently covering Western Europe, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, and Greece.

“Location based services are among the top consumer choices for new mobile applications,” asserted the wonderfully named Kirsi Kokko, Director, Smartphone and Business Solutions, Multimedia, Nokia.

“With the Nokia 6630 Navigation Pack, we wanted to address this demand with a highly advanced, portable package combining the benefits of a smartphone and navigation. When not using navigation based services, people can enjoy the same device for productivity purposes, taking pictures or video, surfing the Internet or listening to music.”

Nokia And Wayfinder Introduces 6630 GPS PackageNever one to knowingly undersell his product, Jonas Sellergren, VP Product Management, Wayfinder Systems proclaimed “the Wayfinder Navigator application on the Nokia 6630 brings the ultimate navigation solution to the consumer.”

“The Wayfinder Navigator(TM) in a Nokia smartphone delivers a complete navigation experience that previously has been found primarily built into cars. Wayfinder Navigator is the perfect travel companion, the ideal tool for people on the move,” he continued, selling furiously.

The Wayfinder Navigator app comes on the Nokia 6630’s Reduced Size MultiMediaCard (MMC) with a 6-month freebie period of navigation including automatic map updates. After that date, users will have to dip in their pockets to extend the service.

The navigation pack will also be available with the Nokia 6670 smartphone in some areas.


Treo 650 Smartphone: UK PalmOne Launch

Treo 650 Smartphone: UK LaunchPalmOne has formally launched its Treo 650 in the UK – more than six months after jammy Americans got their mitts on the keenly anticipated smartphone.

We’re not quite sure what ‘formally launched’ means, because there’s still no UK telecom networks offering them and you can’t officially buy them anywhere.

There was, however, a man from Orange at the press launch, wildly enthusing about the Treo’s capabilities. When pushed for an actual, real-life release date on the Orange network, the best we could get out of him was “Soon.”

It’s all rather frustrating because the presentation had thoroughly whetted our appetite for the Treo.

The updated version of the hugely successful Treo 600 offers a higher-resolution 320×320, 65,000-colour screen, a removable battery, 312MHz Intel XScale PXA270 processor, 32MB of Flash memory (21MB available to the user), Palm OS 5.4 ‘Garnet’, an enhanced VGA digicam and – finally – Bluetooth.

Treo 650 Smartphone: UK LaunchThe handset includes useful quad-band GSM/GPRS connectivity for voice and data, with the bundled VersaMail email application supporting a single Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 ActiveSync account and multiple IMAP and POP accounts.

Anyone who’s ever battled with the complexities of hooking up email services on a mobile will appreciate the mass of preloaded server settings for local ISPs and other email providers built into the Treo. So long as your ISP is listed, setting up a new account takes a matter of seconds.

One thing noticeable by its absence was WiFi. Although palmOne offers an optional WiFi SDIO card for some of its Tungsten PDAs, it currently doesn’t work with the Treo 650.

I asked François Bornibus, vice president for palmOne EMEA, about this oversight, and was told that “drivers were being written” for the Treo, although he couldn’t give me a definite release date.

He also said that a Treo with a fully integrated WiFi “was on the roadmap”, although he wasn’t mindful of giving me a peek at this map.

Treo 650 Smartphone: UK LaunchEven with WiFi, Treo users will still be missing out on the killer VoIP application, Skype, so I asked if there were any plans to introduce a version for the Palm platform.

With a Gallic shrug, Bornibus suggested that it would be up to Skype themselves.

(PalmOne’s Senior Systems Engineer, John Walker, later told me that the current WiFi SDIO Card doesn’t have VoIP functionality anyway, so Treo users can forget all about joining in with the VoIP revolution for a while.)

Finally, I told Bornibus about the countless rumours of a windows-based Treo (sometimes called the Treo 670) that had been circulating around the Internet and asked him if there was such a device in the pipeline.

With an enigmatic smile, he answered, “Anything is possible” – make what you will of that!

Treo 650 Smartphone: UK LaunchDespite attending an official product launch, I left none the wiser as to when the Treo will actually be available or what other network carriers (apart from Orange) will be offering the phone. Naturally, there wasn’t a peep about pricing plans either.

Despite the somewhat UK shambolic release timetable, reviews across the Atlantic have generally been very enthusiastic, and as soon as we finally get our grubby mitts on a Treo, we’ll be posting up a full review.

Treo 650

Nokia N91, N90, N70: Nseries Mobile Multimedia Handsets

Nokia Release Nseries Mobile Multimedia HandsetsNokia has launched three new Nseries mobile multimedia handsets, capable of taking print-quality pictures, playing MP3s, reading e-mail, browsing the Web sites and viewing mobile TV.

They might sound like a collection of night buses, but Nokia’s N90, N91 and N70 phones could represent a major step forward in multimedia mobile convergence.

“This next step in digital convergence brings together mobile devices, Internet content, still and video cameras, music, email and much more. Nokia Nseries devices share similar design traits as mobile phones, but they are actually powerful pocketable computers with a comprehensive set of multimedia features,” said Anssi Vanjoki, Executive Vice President, Multimedia, Nokia.

Nokia N91

The Nokia N91 multimedia handset looks to be facing up to Apple’s iPod, offering a two megapixel camera, Bluetooth and a 4-gigabyte hard disk, (capable of storing up to 3,000 CD-quality songs) inside its natty stainless steel case.

Serving up to 12.5 hours of sound via the included remote-control headset, the Nokia N91 supports a wide range of digital music formats including MP3, M4A, AAC and WMA.

Playback is made easy with dedicated music keys on the phone’s face, which slides down to reveal the phone keypad.

“The Nokia N91 delivers both a fantastic music experience and cutting-edge phone features,” purred Jonas Geust, Vice President, Music at Nokia. “What sets the Nokia N91 apart is the fact that it is always connected – you can download new music while on the move, add it to your favourite playlist and then share your playlist with friends. It’s truly the world’s best mobile connected jukebox.”

Nokia Release Nseries Mobile Multimedia HandsetsNokia N90

The N90 features a twister-tastic, rotating camera barrel which fires up the phone’s 2 megapixel camera (with Carl Zeiss lens), offering autofocus, an integrated flash and 20x digital zoom.

The tri-band phone’s main display has a 352 x 416 pixel screen (262,144 colours), with a secondary 128 x 128 pixels display on the front.

With its pioneering multi-hinge twist-and-shoot design, we have brought ease-of-use and high quality photography into mobile telephony,” enthused Juha Putkiranta, senior vice president of multimedia imaging at Nokia.

Using the main screen as a viewfinder, the N90 can capture high quality video in MP4 format, with a 8x digital zoom.

Nokia Release Nseries Mobile Multimedia HandsetsImages, videos and sound can be stored on the phone’s internal 31 MB memory or on the supplied 64 MB RS-MMC

The 3G-enabled N90 is expected to be the first to hit the market this summer, with a suggested retail price for the N90 is €700 (~US$909 ~£474),

Nokia N70

Finally, the 3G-enabled Nokia N70 once again features a 2 megapixel camera, flash and front camera for video calling, with a FM radio, a digital music player and new 3D games.

The camera is activated by a rear sliding cover, with a range of capture scene settings available, including Scenery, Portrait, Night, and Sports.

Nokia Release Nseries Mobile Multimedia HandsetsJoe Coles, Director of imaging product marketing at Nokia, stressed the consumer demand for camera-enabled mobiles: “The number one reason why people today purchase new handsets is the camera. Indeed, we foresee that by the end of 2005, over half a billion people worldwide will own a camera phone.”

Measuring a diminutive 108.8 x 53 x 17.5 mm, the Nokia N70 is the smallest ever 2 megapixel 3G smartphone based on the Series 60 Platform and is expected to be available in the third quarter of 2005.

This new range of innovative phones represent further evidence of the convergence of consumer devices, with mobile phone makers keen to get a lion size bite of the action.

Nokia already claims to the biggest camera vendor in the world, and anticipates that these new phones will help secure its position as the largest seller of portable MP3 players later this year.

Samsung’s Hard Drive Phone

Google Unveils Mobile Local Search

Google Unveils Mobile Local SearchGoogle is making its local-search service available to mobile-toting users, offering maps and driving directions optimised for the wee screen.

The nifty service – currently being publicly tested – lets nomadic users find local restaurants, stores and other businesses using their Web-enabled mobiles/PDAs equipped with suitable XHTML (Extensible HTML)-enabled browsers.

Using the service is simplicity itself, with a simple interface offering two boxes to enter “what” and “where” search terms, a search button and a link to get driving directions.

If you’re gasping for a Budweiser beer in Brooklyn, simply type ‘bar’ in the first box and the area’s zip code in the second and you’ll be presented with a helpful list of ten hostelries, with a ‘next’ button offering more locations.

Each search result offers the name, address and phone number of the bar and the distance from your location (sadly the service is currently only available for US and Canadian services).

As with Google local search results, clicking on the link for a result takes you to a page offering more detail about the business (there’s not much there at the moment, though).

Google Unveils Mobile Local SearchTelephone numbers are displayed as a hyperlink, and if the users’ phone supports the facility, clicking on the link will dial the listed telephone number (unlike some local search services, there is no additional charge for this).

At the top of the page, a small map shows the locations of the bars listed, with each marked with a pushpin-like icon. A set of text links below lets you zoom in and pan around the local area.

Basic driving instructions can also be obtained by inputting your start and end addresses.

Naturally, such a genuinely useful service suggests a host of revenue earning possibilities, but Georges Harik, director of product management for Google declined to discuss future plans for sponsored listings, pay-per-call advertisements or other potential enhancements to the local mobile service.

Instead, the cryptic chappie stated that Google “plans to do whatever would be useful” for users of the service.

Google Unveils Mobile Local SearchLocal search services are set to be the big hot potato of 2005, with the Kelsey Group reporting that local search ad spending hit US$162 million (£85m/€125m) in 2004.

The local advertising market is predicted to reach US$5.1 billion in the United States by 2009, with local search advertising accounting for about two-thirds of the spend.

With Google’s arch-rivals, Yahoo, already offering a mobile search service, we can look forward to a glorious bun fight as the search engine giants ramp up the feature sets to woo customers. Bring it on!

Google Mobile
Google Local
Yahoo Local

Cell ID: Orange Claim ‘GPS-Beating’ Location Service

Orange Announces 'GPS-Beating' Location Tracking ServiceMobile operator Orange has announced a GSM-based tracking service which it claims is both cheaper and easier to use than GPS technology.

The service – snappily entitled Cell ID – gives the developers of location services details of the Orange GSM network.

When this data is combined with their own location application and other data, Orange claims that it will allow location service providers to offer much more accurate location based services.

Orange has high hopes for the product, boldly predicting that by next year more than 40,000 devices will be tracked using its Cell ID service.

These devices could include farm machinery, train carriages, vending machines and even boats being driven off by drunk holidaymakers.

Melissa Jenkins, M2M product manager at Orange Business Solutions, said Cell ID doesn’t use special antennas or need to be able to see the sky like a GPS system.

“If you are using a Cell ID-type of solution you can chuck it in anywhere and as long as you can get GSM you can get a location. You don’t have the complexity of deploying it – you can use it in much lower cost solutions,” Jenkins said.

The system helps pinpoint devices by their location in relation to mobile phone cells.

“You can see the device is 500 metres from cell A and 800 metres from cell B and work out approximately where it is,” Jenkins explained.

Orange Announces 'GPS-Beating' Location Tracking ServiceElectronic Tracking Systems (ETS), makers of battery powered security tracking devices under the mtrack brand, is one of the first to pilot the product.

Angela Harvey, Director, Electronic Tracking Systems (ETS), explains how the company is using the service:

”With Cell ID we are able to track assets to within 550m, whereas previously the average distance was around 4.5km and could range up to 11km. As a result our rate of recovery improved from 96% in 2004 to 100% so far this year – that’s around £2m of recovered stolen goods.”

“Cell ID has significantly reduced the time recovery personnel need to spend searching for a missing item, lowering costs and helping us return stolen property faster. It has also given our customers and distributors increased confidence that we will retrieve their stolen items.”