BT's mmO2 mobile spin-off will be the first European carrier to offer handheld giant Handspring's Treo family of compact communicators, but experts are urging IT buyers to hold off for a few months until more manageable options come to market.
Treo is aimed at the mobile professional, Handspring said, combining a GSM phone, Palm OS organiser with wireless email, SMS text messaging and internet access.
"Partnering with operators like mmO2 will become critical to [Treo's] success," said Handspring chief executive, Donna Dubinsky, adding that she expects to offer the Treo in Ireland, Germany and Holland in the spring.
The company said that software would be released in the summer to allow the service to be upgraded to GPRS, which will offer more bandwidth.
mmO2 already offers the wireless email-only BlackBerry service from Canadian group RIM, as well as the O2xda product, unveiled in November with Microsoft and due to be available in spring, which experts say is similar to the Treo.
"Different groups of mobile workers will have differing needs and ways that they prefer to operate," said mmO2 spokesman David Nicholas.
But analysts said that IT managers had to seriously consider how critical the devices would be to their business before investing.
"Treo and O2xda are very similar products but, unlike the BlackBerry, they have to be set up individually and cannot be managed centrally," explained Jessica Figueras of analyst group Ovum. "That could prove to be a nightmare for IT departments with large mobile workforces."
Figueras pointed out that all GPRS phones offer POP3 email options, so it was down to companies to work out their specific field requirements and subsequent investment.
"My advice to IT managers would be wait, because I'm sure that within six to nine months Handspring and Microsoft will have come up with platforms for centralised management," she said.
The Treo will be sold through mmO2's distribution channels. Pricing and network charges have yet to be finalised.
Meanwhile, Italian mobile carrier Blu, in which BT owns a 29 per cent stake, said yesterday that all five of the country's third-generation (3G) licence holders are considering moves to purchase the group.
Blu failed to optain a 3G licence and is estimated to cost BT around £20m a month.
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