Weekly Wrap: Smartphone Stutter-Step
By Carlo Longino, Fri May 16 10:45:37 GMT 2003

Microsoft Smartphone woes, triumvirate aligns to fight Qualcomm, and more...


T-Mobile this week announced it was delaying the scheduled summer release of its Microsoft Smartphone-powered handset due to quality issues, with one spokesman telling Dow Jones the handset "is not of the quality we expect." Similar issues have dogged the first Smartphone device, the Orange SPV, of which the T-Mobile device is an updated version. Earlier, Reuters had reported T-Mobile was dropping plans to launch the device altogether, which would have left Orange as the only global carrier supporting Smartphone devices. Still, the delay will come as quite a blow to Microsoft, reinforcing some industry notions that the Smartphone OS isn't quite yet up to snuff.

We've reported on a number of stories in the past several weeks telling how companies like Samsung, Texas Instruments, and Nokia are all taking aim at Qualcomm's dominance in the CDMA chip market, and last week we surmised that TI might join forces with Nokia, its biggest customer, in the fight. Well, the two companies, along with STMicroelectronics (which also counts Nokia as its biggest customer), said this week they would collaborate on CDMA2000 1x chipsets, with TI and ST making the sets based on Nokia technology that's already in use in six of the company's CDMA handsets. The two chipmakers will also make available complementary technology to support applications like GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth through their open mobile application processing interface (OMAPI) standard.

Dutch operator KPN was in the news again, its parent company posting strong quarterly results, and the mobile unit bought a controlling interest in HubHop, the Netherlands' biggest WLAN operator, with a whopping 35 hotspots. KPN's German arm, E-Plus, also signed an agreement with NetCheckIn, a German WLAN provider, where it will provide customer management and back-end support for a WLAN network built and maintained by NetCheckIn. KPN's CEO also denied the persistent rumors that KPN is in talks with mmO2 about merging their German operations.

In Scandinavia, the Swedish government told three of the country's 3G license holders it wouldn't push back the year-end deadline for their networks to cover 99.9% of the country's population, this coming after rejecting similar pleas from the country's other two holders earlier in the year. This, of course, led to Orange pulling out of the country and dropping its 3G plans there. And across the Gulf of Bothnia, TeliaSonera sold its Telia Finland business to Finnet, as mandated by EU regulators as part of the Telia-Sonera merger. As Finnet already had a 3G license through its majority holding of Suomen 3G, it sold that interest to minority holder Tele2 and assumed the former Telia license.

The long-awaited (in some circles, anyway) "Matrix phone" made its debut on Thursday, coinciding with Matrix: Reloaded the movie, the video game, the sports drink, and just about anything else they could figure out to tie in. The phone, available only in the US and only direct from Samsung, will set back people like the Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons 500 big ones, with or without activation on Sprint, the only network supporting the phone. That's a lot for a voice-only phone that looks like an electric shaver.

From the Fence-Sitting Dept: We told you last week about the Microsoft iLoo, a port-a-toilet-turned-wireless Web kiosk, complete with plasma screens and digital surround sound. News came out Monday of this week that the iLoo was an April Fools' Day joke, just a month late. But then news came out Tuesday that the iLoo was real, but the project had been killed. Stay tuned, I've gotta feeling this story will never die.