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11/13/2006
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New BlackJack Smartphone Debuts

The phone is powered by Microsoft's Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system, comes with "direct push" e-mail technology, and can browse the Internet.

Cingular Wireless, Samsung, and Microsoft on Monday unveiled their BlackJack smartphone, continuing the trend of affordable, ultra-thin mobile devices that appeal to both businesses and consumers.

The BlackJack is packed with the latest features. It's powered by Microsoft's Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system, which comes with "direct push" technology for receiving wireless e-mail (similar to the BlackBerry). The smartphone's built-in Microsoft Explorer Mobile lets users browse the Internet similar to how they would on a desktop. The Internet can be accessed at relatively fast speeds, since the BlackJack works with Cingular's third-generation and EDGE cellular data networks.

In addition to having the ability to access business applications, the BlackJack has a consumer appeal, said Kent Mathy, president of Cingular's Business Markets Group, during a Web conference on Monday. It comes with a MobiTV service that offers programming from popular television channels and content providers, including CNN, ESPN, Fox Sports, MSNBC, and others. The smartphone also comes with location and mapping services, XM radio, and Cingular's video and music programs.

The BlackJack, which will be available from Cingular in the United States later this month, is the latest smartphone designed for prosumers, a breed of mobile users that buy smartphones for professional and personal use. Earlier this year, Motorola rolled out its sleek Moto Q smartphone, while RIM introduced its first consumer smartphone, the BlackBerry Pearl, with multimedia capabilities and expandable memory.

The prices for these smartphones are falling, which makes them affordable to businesspeople and consumers. The BlackJack will be sold for $200. The Blackberry Pearl also costs $200 with a T-Mobile subscription. Mobile users on a really tight budget can purchase the Moto Q for $100 from Verizon Wireless.

But some companies purchasing smartphones for their employees are not convinced that business and pleasure should mix. "This prosumer approach will lend itself more to retail than business. I don't see streaming video or music as a must-have application for us. It's just not necessary," says Daniel Gasparro, senior director and chief technologist at Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm that has deployed BlackBerrys and Windows Mobile-powered smartphones. Businesses want robust security features and reliability, so they're willing to purchase more expensive smartphones. The newer smartphones will more likely fall into the hands of more college students than traveling businesspeople.

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