December 16, 1996 10 AM ET

Getting 'smart' about options
Motorola, Microsoft explore opportunities for intelligent communicators

By Mark Moore


With a new wave of smart pagers and smart phones due in 1997, Motorola Inc. continues to bolster its 32-bit client/server platform for these devices, while Microsoft Corp. gauges interest in a subset of Windows CE.

Motorola's Platform Software Division is forming strategic alliances with Starfish Software Inc., Cirrus Logic Inc. and Unwired Planet Inc. to equip its Memos mobile platform with additional software and hardware.

Separately, Microsoft has been holding discussions with NEC America Inc., Sony Corp. and others about using a scaled-down version of the Windows CE (consumer electronics) operating system--code-named Gryphon--in smart pagers next year, said sources close to Microsoft.

The efforts are designed to increase the appeal of intelligent communicators, which combine two-way wireless voice and/or data communications, including Internet access, with contact management applications.

Memos, which currently powers a Motorola-developed $399 smart pager called PageWriter, will be incorporated into the Schaumburg, Ill., company's forthcoming GSM Map smart phone. That device is expected to debut in Europe by the second half of next year and in the United States thereafter, officials said.

Under Motorola's deal with Starfish, the Scotts Valley, Calif., developer will create a version of its Sidekick personal information management software that runs on Memos. Due in the second half of next year, the Sidekick version for Memos will enable users to schedule group meetings over the World Wide Web, Motorola officials said.

Motorola also has agreed to license an ARM (Advanced RISC Machine)-based CL-PS7110 32-bit RISC processor from Cirrus, of Fremont, Calif. The PageWriter currently is powered by Motorola's 16-bit Dragonball 68000 processor.

Finally, Motorola is building support into Memos for Unwired Planet's Up.Link and Up.Browser software. These server and client applications deliver Internet content written in Unwired's HDML (Handheld Device Markup Language) that is tailored for displaying text on smaller LCDs found on handheld devices. Motorola's GSM Map phone will include Unwired's HDML-based Web content services when it ships, officials said.

Microsoft's Gryphon is targeted at devices that are smaller than the handheld PCs based on the current Windows CE iteration. But sources said Gryphon, which reportedly takes up less than 1M byte of RAM, is not expected until late next year.

"There's a lot of talk going on right now, but it's just talk at this point," said one source, who requested anonymity.

Microsoft officials in Redmond, Wash., declined to comment, other than to say Windows CE is appropriate for a variety of non-PC devices.

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