I had the opportunity to do a quick whirlwind visit at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona. I was able to spend some time hands on with an HP iPAQ hw6900, and a Samsung SGH-i320, among other devices. I also sat down with the CEO of i-mate to see how they plan to penetrate the US market with their Windows Mobile based devices.
It seemed like the show took over the whole city — there were no hotel rooms to be found. The setting was amazing, at the Fira de Barcelona and, from what I could tell, the show took over 8 “halls”, with only three of those halls having exhibition space. With 692 exhibitors and an expected 50,000 attendees, it’s a pretty large conference.
HP iPAQ hw6900
I spent a little time hands on with the new HP iPAQ 6900. You’ll recognize the look since they didn’t change the physical aspects of the device. However, they have removed the SD slot, so you’re left with only a mini SD slot. Also, in what seems like an improvement, they’ve flattened the keys on the keyboard. This change may be one of those things that people will be split on as to whether it’s really an improvement. Personally, I liked the feel of the keyboard better than the 6500 series.
The main software improvement is the upgrade to Windows Mobile 5. The amount of flash memory has also been increased to 128MB. In addition to the GSM/GPRS/EDGE capability, the 6900 can also do Wifi (802.11b).
This time around, HP has also included TomTom’s GPS navigation software and an ability to find the closest hotspot.
The hw6900 will be available in the summer of 2006 in the US. (Everywhere else will see it in March).
(Ignore the listing that says “Integrated SD”, someone messed up) [larger]
For Samsung, it seems like they spend a lot of time trying to be the first to break some new territory. Their display at 3GSM was dedicated to the “firsts” that they’ve introduced: slimmest megapixel card phone, first WiBro MITs, slimmest 3G/UMTS phone, etc. With the Samsung i320, they’ve clearly set their sights on the Motorola Q in the slimmest Windows Mobile 5 smartphone with a QWERTY keyboard.
The device is indeed very slim, but the keyboard may not be a hit. The keys have “peaks” on them in an effort to provide a shape to rest your fingers on. I wasn’t a big fan, but we’ll have to see how it works out when the phone reaches the masses.
Speaking of masses, it doesn’t look like the US will see the phone for sale here. The specifications card at the booth mentioned that the distribution will only be in Europe and Asia.
I had a chance to sit down with Jim Morrison, the CEO of i-mate and asked him about their strategy to penetrate the US market. There strategy is plain and simple — aim at the enterprise. They are willing to customize their software for the needs of an enterprise that purchases enough of their handsets and will be increasing the number of developers that they have in Redmond, WA.
To this end, i-mate has announced the i-mate Suite. The suite includes three applications: i-mate 1-View, i-mate Control, and i-mate Backup. 1-View provides an aggregate view of all the files on your handheld device along with any other machine that you’ve set up. You can set up shared folders to share with colleagues and you can retrieve files from your other machines (notebook or desktop). A very powerful utility for business travelers.
i-mate Control is mainly meant for IT administrators. The application lets you browse and change handset configurations, install applications, remove applications, erase any sensitive data and lock a lost handset. The commands to perform these tasks are sent via SMS by the control panel to the handset.
Finally i-mate Backup lets you backup from anywhere (wirelessly), set up schedules about how often and what is backed up, do incremental backups to save bandwidth, and perform a quick-restore on a device.