Taiwan's HTC to put BlackBerry on Windows Mobile devices

High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC), one of the world's largest makers of handheld devices based on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Mobile software, has signed a deal to offer support for BlackBerry wireless services on devices that it manufactures, according to the company.

Although HTC maintains a low profile among consumers, the company has long been considered a powerhouse within the handheld device industry, designing and manufacturing devices for other, better-known companies. The Taoyuan, Taiwan, company's work includes Hewlett-Packard Co.'s iPaq handhelds and O2 Ltd.'s Xda handhelds. HTC was also the first company to demonstrate a Microsoft-based mobile phone.

Under the agreement with Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM), HTC plans to start adding Blackberry Connect to some devices, allowing mobile operators to offer Windows Mobile-based devices that can access e-mail and other services offered by RIM's popular BlackBerry service.

BlackBerry Connect will first be offered with keyboard-based devices made by HTC and will be expanded as an option on other devices in the future, said Maggie Cheng, a spokeswoman for HTC.

One of the first HTC-made devices that is likely to offer BlackBerry Connect is the HTC Universal, a clam-shell 3G (third-generation) device that sports a full QWERTY keyboard, Wi-Fi connectivity, and a rotating display. The Universal will ship during the middle of this year, but not all of the devices produced will necessarily ship with BlackBerry Connect installed, Cheng said.

"That depends on our customers," she said.

To date, two mobile operators have announced plans to offer the Universal under their own brand names, Cheng said. Those two operators are: Vodafone Group, which will sell the Universal as the VPA IV, and T-Mobile International AG & Co. KG, which will offer the device as the MDA IV. Both operators also offer the BlackBerry service, according to their Web sites.

Both the VPA IV and MDA IV are expected to be available during the middle of this year. Pricing was not disclosed.

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