Samsung and VoiceStream back Microsoft smart phones

Samsung Telecommunications America Inc. and VoiceStream Wireless Corp. are teaming up to develop GPRS- (general packet radio service) compatible cellular phones that will incorporate Microsoft Corp.’s Stinger software platform for smart phones, the companies announced Monday.

GPRS is a packet-switched technology that allows for faster, always-on Internet access over current GSM (Global Service for Mobile Communications) networks. Sometimes referred to as 2.5G, the technology is considered by many to be an interim service before the introduction of even higher-speed 3G (third-generation) wireless networks.

The agreement, for which financial terms were not disclosed, is a multi-year, multi-product deal that will incorporate Samsung wireless Internet capable handsets with VoiceStream’s GSM (global system for mobile communications) U.S.-based network and Microsoft’s Stinger platform, the companies said in a joint statement.

Microsoft’s Stinger provides handset makers with software and specifications for building Internet-enabled smart phones, in a similar way that Pocket PC provided an outline for building PDAs (personal digital assistants). The company competes in this area with Symbian Ltd., which makes the EPOC operating system, and Palm Inc., which is also pushing its handheld computer platform for use in phones.

The first products to be produced by Microsoft, Samsung and VoiceStream will incorporate WAP (Wireless Application Protocol), a technology that allows a limited amout of Web content to be accessed on portable devices. Further out, the collaboration will concentrate on shipping devices using a dual WAP and HTML (hypertext markup language) microbrowser based on Microsoft’s Mobile Explorer, which is a slimmed down Web browser for handheld gadgets, the companies said.

Projected availability for the phones was not announced, although VoiceStream has said it plans to introduce high-speed data applications using the GPRS system across the United States in 2001.

Samsung Telecommunications is the Dallas-based subsidiary of Korean electronics giant Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.

Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., can be reached at VoiceStream, in Bellevue, Wash., can be reached at Samsung Telecommunications America, in Richardson Tex., can be contacted at Samsung Electronics, in Seoul, can be contacted at