Microsoft joined a host of other vendors demonstrating Web enabled phones at the Cebit trade show in Hannover, with models based on its lightweight operating system, Windows CE.
The software company previewed phones that combine traditional telephone services such as voice messaging and caller ID with enhanced data capabilities, including Internet access and email. The announcement was in conjunction with a number of telephone manufacturers, including Philips and Panasonic.
The telephones integrate the usual phone handset and numeric keypad with a touch screen display and keyboard. According to Microsoft, they are targeted at non PC consumers who want a low cost means of accessing the Internet, as well as households that already have a PC but want a second location in the house for more convenient access to Web or Internet services.
Jonathan Roberts, general manager of the information appliances division at Microsoft, commented: "For consumers, the telephone already represents a ubiquitous communications device. With Web enabled screenphones, consumers can have a fast, easy way to get significantly more value from a device they are already comfortable with."
The phones will include an address book, Caller ID, email, answering machine, as well as full Web browsing. The 640x480 touch screen will enable most Web pages to be displayed without modification.
While the initial phones will access the Internet via a standard analogue modem (33.6 kpbs), future Windows CE Web telephones will support ISDN and ADSL connections for higher speed access.
Executives at Microsoft said they expect the devices to start shipping within the next three to five months, priced between $300 and $500.
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