HP, Cingular Partner on New iPaqs

Hewlett-Packard and Cingular are touting their collaboration on the new iPaq 6500 series, heralding the Pocket PC handhelds as the first in the U.S. capable of connecting via Cingular’s high-speed EDGE wireless network.

The companies said they would cram digital wireless voice and data capability, global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver, camera, keyboard and Bluetooth on the latest iPaq handhelds, to be available October 31.

However, some analysts indicated the device falls short of ideal functionality, and may not necessarily represent a good use of the EDGE wireless technology, which will make Cingular the sole U.S. carrier for the device.

“It’s nice they’ve got EDGE, but they have not made a compelling reason to browse on the device, yet,” Gartner Vice President Ken Dulaney told TechNewsWorld. “A lot of times, the carriers throw things at the wall to see what sticks. They don’t really understand what you want to do with it, so there is a lack of planning.”

Voice, Data Options

Nevertheless, the device — to be offered by Cingular for US$449 with a two-year, $40 monthly wireless plan — will be voice- and data-ready via Cingular’s EDGE network, as well as GSM, and GPRS wireless technologies.

The new iPaq hw6515 will include a 1.3-megapixel camera, while the hw6510 comes without camera. Both devices feature mobile mail, multimedia messaging, GPS and navigation with Microsoft Pocket Streets, Bluetooth wireless capability and business applications including customer relationship management (CRM) and sales force automation software. The companies also announced a solutions evaluation center aimed at simplifying the implementation of wireless solutions with the handsets.

“The introduction of the HP iPaq hw6510/hw6515 provides business customers with more than just a powerful new device, but rather a complete wireless voice and data solution right out of the gate,” said a statement from Cingular vice president of business data services Jeff Bradley.

Back to Drawing Board

Dulaney said while the deal positively expands HP’s carrier connections beyond T-Mobile, there may still be issues with Cingular’s IT support, which has given users difficulty in the past.

“Will Cingular let HP support the device?” Dulaney asked.

The analyst was also critical of the latest iPaq technical aspects — poor keyboard design, application difficulties, and lack of a direct link to Microsoft Exchange.

“I think HP has got to go back to the drawing board with iPaq. I think they lost their way a bit,” he said, adding Gartner believes the 6500 models will be eclipsed by iPaq 6700 handsets.

Smart Partnering

HP’s partnership with Cingular is just the latest collaboration among hardware and software vendors and wireless carriers, coming on the heels of deals between Palm and Microsoft, and Palm and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM), Verizon partnerships and others.

Yankee Group senior analyst John Jackson indicated the partnerships, brought about largely by user desire for flexibility and interoperability, are likely to continue.

“The market becomes more and more partnership-driven, and the driver is the end users’ demand for a highly flexible solution,” Jackson told TechNewsWorld.

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