Handspring Turns Orange

In the footsteps of Microsoft’s recent alliance with Orange SA, a London-based mobile operator and subsidiary of France Telecom , Handspring followed suit this week in search of the perfect smartphone.

Under the terms of the agreement, Mountain View, Calif.-based Handspring and Orange SA will develop a line of smartphones for the European wireless market, where shipments of smartphones are expected to exceed those of handhelds in 2003.

Orange SA is one of the largest providers of services for the mobile telephone market in the United Kingdom and France.

In a similar deal, Orange tied the knot with Microsoft in October of 2002 by co-branding a Windows-powered smartphone called the Orange SPV, which stands for ‘Sound Pictures Video.’

The Orange SPV, which is not yet available in the U.S., delivers a high-resolution color screen with wireless applications like Internet access, email, instant messaging, photo messaging, Pocket Internet Explorer, and Windows Media Player, all functions that can be synchronized with a Windows-based desktop PC. The Orange SPV also comes with an attachable camera.

But as of March of this year, only 40,000 Orange SPVs were sold, compared with the relative success of a similar product, Vodafone Live!, made by European mobile giant Vodafone .

Handspring is already a firmly established maker of smartphone applications for the U.S. market with its line of Treo and Visor products, but the company’s deal with Orange marks its first co-branded product aimed at the European wireless market.

Domestically, Handspring already has several co-branding partnerships in the fire with wireless mobile operators, including the Treo 300, which is co-branded with Sprint, and the Treo 270, which is co-branded with T-Mobile.

The focus of the partnership between Handspring and Orange will be to develop business and personal smartphone products that will integrate Orange’s network systems and make the use of wireless data applications easy and immediate for the consumer.

According to a Handspring spokesperson, the yet-unnamed smartphone will be based on Handspring’s Treo family of Palm OS-driven devices.

The spokesperson would not reveal any details about the new product other than some of the standard smartphone features it will offer, such as phone capability, Internet access, email, and instant messaging.

The first smartphone to come out of the partnership between Handspring and Orange will be unveiled in fall of this year, the spokesperson said, until then, Handspring will remain relatively tight-lipped about what it will look like.

There are no plans in place at present for its U.S. release.

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