Audiovox unveils handheld, promises PDA phone

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Hauppauge, N.Y.-based Audiovox, the No. 3 U.S. cell phone maker, unveiled Maestro, a device driven by Microsoft Corp.’s (NasdaqNM:MSFT – news) Pocket PC 2002 operating system software. The device holds 32 megabytes of memory, and features two types of slots for memory or applications: a built-in compact flash memory card and Secure Digital card. It will initially be sold by wireless phone providers, such as Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ – news), packaged with a mobile phone. When connected to Audiovox’s CDM-9100 wireless phone, the device offers users Internet access without the need for an add-on modem or an additional wireless Internet Service Provider. The package will likely sell for about $500, cheaper than the average cost of a similar phone and PDA if purchased separately, according to Philip Christopher, chief of Audiovox’s wireless unit. “We are packaging the phone and PDA combined and telling the carriers that this is way to sell more phone, get more activations and, in doing so, get involved in the convergent technology between PDAs and phones,” Christopher told Reuters. He added that the Maestro, which is essentially the same as Toshiba Corp’s Genio recently released in Japan, will soon be available without the separate mobile phone at certain U.S. electronics retailers. Audiovox also plans to sell early next year the Maestro with the ability to function as a mobile phone. “We look to sell 50,000 (PDAs) in the fourth quarter, and then introduce the PDA with the built in (phone),” he said, suggesting that the advanced device might arrive in mid-year. Combination cell phone-PDA devices — often called “smartphones” — are an emerging subset of the handheld computing and communications market. When it debuts, Audiovox’s new model will compete with devices made by such as Kyocera Corp.’s Kyocera 6035, and Samsung Co’s SPH-I300 Sprint PCS Phone, a sleek color model also unveiled on Thursday.

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