HTC to launch BlackBerry rival by end of 2006

Taiwan’s High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC), the largest maker of mobile handsets that run the Windows Mobile OS, plans to launch a smartphone that looks like a BlackBerry, complete with a QWERTY keypad, by the end of the year.

The handset, code-named Excalibur, is designed to promote the push e-mail function of Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Mobile, and compete with the popular BlackBerry service offered by Research In Motion Ltd. The device, and other BlackBerry-like offerings entering the market, raise the stakes for RIM as it faces increased competition.

HTC’s new handset will support a host of wireless functions, including GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication), EDGE (Enhanced Data GSM Environment), WLAN (wireless-LAN) and Bluetooth, according to a person close to the matter.

HTC declined to officially comment on the device.

The device will likely be launched first by mobile phone service provider O2 Plc. in Germany, with a QWERTZ keypad for the local market instead of QWERTY.

Excalibur will then be offered in other areas of Europe. Pricing information was not available. More information about the HTC Excalibur can be found at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Web site.

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