At the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France, on February 19, Microsoft officially launched the wireless version of Pocket PC under a new name—Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition. The launch's European location was no accident. As I reported in my February 7 Pocket PC Perspectives column, Microsoft focused its announcement on the European market, and the first Phone Edition devices—Hewlett-Packard's (HP's) Jornada 928 and mmO2's XDA—aren't intended for distribution in the United States. However, I'm delighted to report that Toshiba will release a Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition device in the United States under the Audiovox label. Unlike the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM)-based Jornada 928, the new Audiovox "Thera" device will function on Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) networks such as Sprint PCS.

The Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition's general features are what you'd expect (you can get details, including an interactive demo, from Microsoft's Web site), including tightly integrated Pocket PC and phone functions. For example, you can auto-dial any entry in your contacts database, and Short Message Service (SMS) messages will appear in the Pocket PC's inbox. Microsoft is stressing the Pocket PC's flexibility as a competitive edge over other PDA/phone combination devices. The company notes that the built-in CompactFlash (CF) slot lets you use a Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition device with an 802.11 card for wireless LAN operation; you can also use the built-in data capabilities of whichever cellular network the device supports.

Physically, both HP's Jornada 928 (which HP demonstrated at 3GSM World) and Audiovox's "Thera" device are slightly larger and heavier than today's Pocket PCs. HP says that the Jornada 928 measures 3.1" x 5.4" x 0.7" and weighs less than 7 ounces. According to a Brighthand.com specification page for the new Audiovox device, the device will measure 3.0" x 5.0" x 0.8". The Audiovox device uses the same StrongArm SA-1110 processor as the current crop of Pocket PC 2002 devices, but the Jornada 928 uses a new processor—Texas Instruments' OMAP 710.

HP's Jornada 928 announcement states that the company will release the device this summer, but only in Europe and Asia. An HP representative told me that the company is looking into a similar device that will be available in the United States toward the end of the year. I've learned that Audiovox expects to announce its device in the United States at the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA) Wireless show later this month in Orlando, Florida, but the device won't be available until late in the year.

Given the European location of Microsoft's February 19 announcement, the fact that only European wireless carriers are listed as partners isn't surprising. But quite a few European carriers have signed on, including mmO2, Orange, SingTel, Telefonica Moviles, Telstra, T-Mobil, TurkCell, and Vodafone. I asked a Microsoft representative whether any US carriers are in the pipeline and was told to stay tuned.