Many carriers and vendors offer Palm and RIM devices that have built-in phone functionality. But only now are we starting to see the first generations of Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition. In this installment of Mobile & Wireless UPDATE Pocket PC Edition, I present an overview of the technology and discuss a couple of devices entering the market.

Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition is a version of the Pocket PC OS that includes built-in phone and calling features. Because this OS requires specialized devices and hardware functionality, most of these features aren't typically available for existing Pocket PC devices. If you want to draw a comparison with the Windows Smart Phone technology, Pocket PC Phone Edition is about phone-enabling the Pocket PC, whereas Windows Smart Phone software is about bringing Windows to the smart phone.

Pocket PC Phone Edition has many of the features you use in your regular mobile phone, such as the ability to make and receive calls, caller ID, speed dialing, call logs, and Short Message Service (SMS). In addition, Pocket PC Phone Edition supports direct integration with Microsoft Outlook, so you can dial from your contacts list and use a stylus or your finger to use phone features. The phone's integration of Pocket PC and personal information manager (PIM) functionality helps you make the most of the platform. For more information about Pocket PC Phone Edition features and functionality, go to the following URL.
http://www.microsoft.com/mobile/pocketpc/phoneedition/default.asp

A couple of carriers and manufacturers are releasing Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition devices in various US markets. Verizon Wireless has released Audiovox's Thera device, which supports Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) voice and data and 1xRTT technology for voice and high-speed data in selected markets. The wireless connectivity integrates Sierra Wireless features, which provide voice and data services, directly into the device. This device offers some nice features, but the $800 price tag and limited battery life during phone functionality are disadvantages. For more information about the Thera device, go to the following URL.
http://www.verizonwireless.com

VoiceStream is about to release a Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition device that uses the company's Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM)/General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) network. This Phone Edition device, which High Tech Computer (HTC) manufactures, is due in the next couple of months. It has a sleek design and promises significantly longer battery life than other Pocket PC devices. I had an opportunity to use this device, and I found it pretty impressive. For more information about this device, go to the following URL.
http://www.voicestream.com/pocketpc/default.asp

If you already have a Pocket PC, you won't be entirely left out in the cold. Hewlett-Packard (HP)—formerly Compaq—has been working on its Wireless Pack to provide phone functionality for existing iPAQ devices. However, the Wireless Pack makes the iPAQ fairly bulky and difficult to use as a phone. The Wireless Pack is due in the United States in August. For more information about the Wireless Pack, go to the following URL.
http://www.compaq.com/products/handhelds/pocketpc/options/wireless_packs.html

Because these devices represent the first generation of phone-enabled Pocket PCs to enter the market, expect to see minor problems as carriers and manufacturers refine their devices. The great benefit of Pocket PC 2002-based devices is that as Microsoft develops new Phone Edition updates and enhancements, you'll be able to use the flash device ROM to easily upgrade to the latest OS features.

In the next couple installments of Mobile & Wireless UPDATE Pocket PC Edition, I'll look at some features of ruggedized Pocket PC devices and some solutions for ruggedizing existing consumer devices. See you then.