Hewlett-Packard has decided to enter the cell phone business, taking the wraps off its iPaq 500 series Voice Messenger. The iPaq 500 is aimed to meet to telephony needs of mobile professionals via both standard mobile phone service and VoIP, while providing on the go Internet and productivity computing capabilities via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and the application support of Windows Mobile 6.0.
"Busy professionals are constantly flooded with email and looking for ways to quickly and easily manage it and move on with their day," said Dave Rothschild, VO of HP’s Handheld Business Unit. "Our HP iPAQ Voice Messenger smartphone gives mobile users an easy way to manage all types of communications and stay focused on their business."
Unlike previous iPaq palmtops, the 500 series won’t sport a stylus, a tiny QWERTY keypad, or even touchscreen capabilities; instead, users can use a standard numeric keypad to enter data, and HP is really hoping users will embrace voice commands. Out of the box, the 500 series will offer more than 20 speaker-independent commands to let users manage phone calls, email, calendar, and "productivity" tasks, and users will be able to respond to email messages using "VoiceReply. HP is offering little information about VoiceReply; we’re presuming that means the iPaq will record your reply as an audio file and send it off as an attachment to an email reply, although speech recognition technology which converted your speech to bandwidth-friendly ASCII would be much cooler. The iPaq will enable users to listen to email and text messages using a text-to-speech feature.
The iPaq 500 series will offer integrated 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and support for VOIP capabilities as well as enabling users to connect to the Internet—since the iPaq 500 series will be a Windows Mobile 6 device, that also means they can use Outlook Mobile to check email, sync back with home base. The iPAQ 500 series will also be the fist iPaq to offer over-the-air device management technology that HP acquired with its purchase of Bitfone; this lets business and enterprise customers remotely manage and support the iPaq 500 while it’s out and about.
Otherwise, the quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE iPaq 500 series sports 200 MHz TI OMAP processor, a 2-inch 176 by 220 pixel color screen, 64 MB of user memory, micro SD storage, strong battery life (HP says talk time of up to 6.5 hours, with 188 hours of standby), USB 1.1, an integrated speakerphone, Bluetooth 1.2, and a stereo headphone output. HP is aiming the iPaq 500 series at enterprise customers, although it will be available to individuals through unspecified U.S. mobile operators. HP says the units will be available "this spring"—here in the northern hemisphere we take that to mean "before June"—at U.S. prices around $300 to $350.