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Verizon Wireless To Offer Pocket PC/Phone Combo

Building on its already successful wireless phone offering around the U.S., Verizon Wireless is upping the ante for potential customers with a wireless phone/Pocket PC combo, officials announced Thursday.

Launched in 10 states a few weeks ago, the $600 package comes complete with an Audiovox Maestro Pocket PC (pre-loaded with Windows Pocket PC and a raft of utilities) and CDM-9100 wireless phone utilizing Verizon Wireless' code-division multiple access (CDMA) spread spectrum wireless platform.

When the wireless company will expand its service beyond the 10-state area is unknown at this time and officials were unwilling to speculate, though it can be assumed that its initial success will determine whether the program is expanded nationwide.

At $600, the Pocket PC/phone combo is pricey for most consumers in today's market, especially after Christmas. But Pocket PC's in general are a growing commodity and a promotional package that harnesses the power of a mini-computer with easy access to the Internet could convince frequent business travelers to splurge.

Tom Roberts, Verizon Wireless West coast vice president of marketing, is confident the program will be a success.

"Imagine having the capability of sending and receiving data on a pocket-sized device and then being able to update your personal computer with the data instantaneously," Roberts said. "A simple, single cable connection between the handset and the Pocket PC allows the user to surf the Internet, check and send email, or browse, shop or trade on the Web."

A USB port on the Pocket PC also lets users connect their device to their personal computer to share information and applications. The Maestro also features a touch-screen interface with on-screen keyboard and handwriting recognition software. Users can store up to 32MB of information on the Pocket PC.

Verizon Wireless is a joint venture between Verizon Communications , one of the largest of the nation's four incumbent telephone companies, and Vodafone, Europe's largest wireless phone company. The company is still hoping to go public by mid-2002.

The wireless phone company, while the largest in the U.S. with more than 28.7 million wireless subscribers, is facing an ever-growing amount of competition from the likes of AT&T Wireless , Nextel Communications and Sprint Corp. .

All three, while gradually building up their 3G wireless technology, are concentrating on what Brenda Raney, Verizon Wireless spokesperson, calls "convergent technology." The emphasis, she said, is one people are focusing on because of demand.

"There's a market for that kind of service," Raney said. "We have a high-tech generation of people who want to connect their home PCs, wireless phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs), so everyone's moving to this convergent technology."