Sharp to unveil 3G PDA-type cell phone

Sharp Corp. will roll out a PDA (personal digital assistant)-style 3G (third-generation) cellular phone with Bluetooth capability as one of the key products of its business initiatives for 2002, the company said Friday at a Tokyo conference.

The company is developing the 3G handset for NTT DoCoMo Inc.'s FOMA service, which is expected to be ready in the third quarter this year, said Katsuhiko Machida, president of Sharp.

The cell phone will look and function like Sharp's Zaurus, a PDA popular in the Japanese market. "Because this is a PDA-style cell phone, I think it will be a true 3G device, which can make the best use of W-CDMA (Wideband Code-Division Multiple Access) technologies," Machida said.

The device is expected to include a video camera and separate Bluetooth-embedded headset, based on a prototype that was unveiled at CEATEC in Japan last year.

The boundary between cell phones and other mobile devices is blurring, although opinions still differ among mobile device makers on whether cell phones will combine with PDAs. However, Machida said, it is inevitable that various kinds of mobile communication devices will become all-in-one products.

Sharp, as a leading LCD (liquid crystal display) maker, also expects demand for LCDs and LCD televisions to keep growing, Machida said.

"Four years ago, we predicted that, by 2005, LCD televisions would become mainstream in households, and we can see that [this may] be achieved," he said. The company plans to manufacture 370,000 LCD televisions in Japan and 130,000 abroad in 2002, and expects the product to be widespread in the U.S. this year, he said.

Currently, up to 30-inch screens are available, and Sharp plans to stretch the size to 40 inches, he said.

Sharp's other focus on the LCD side is system LCDs, which embed system LSIs (large scale integrated circuits) on the glass to make an all-in-one product. System LCDs can be customized to any size and are therefore suitable for smaller mobile devices, according to the company.

Asked whether the LCD business is following in the footstep of the DRAM (dynamic RAM) business, where falling prices have hurt many manufacturers, Machida said that "LCDs are still in progress, in terms of development and production. We are currently researching new production technologies with universities and we can come up with new system LCDs using different types of CG (continuous grain) silicons. Therefore, I don't think the business is going to be like DRAM, and there are ways to avoid it," he said.

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