Dangers Hiptop slips

By Carmen Nobel  |  Posted 2002-02-15

The long-awaited launch of startup Danger Inc.s Hiptop device, originally planned for the end of 2001, has now slipped until late spring. But officials said the device should appear in carrier trials within the next month.

"In order for us to hit a date all of the partners have to align," said Renee Niemi, vice president of marketing at the Palo Alto, Calif., company. "We thought that the market and the partners would all be ready by the end of December, and now it looks like it will be more like the spring. We feel pretty good about the late spring."

Danger announced the Hiptop last September at the DemoMobile trade show in La Jolla, Calif. The device combines a cell phone, personal digital assistant and pager.

Sources close to Danger said that the company soon will announce a partnership with Voicestream Wireless, which will be starting trials with the Hiptop within the next month on its GSM/GPRS (global system for mobility/general packet radio service) network, which supports both voice and data. Officials at Voicestream were not immediately available for comment.

The company is targeting carriers with a back-end service that provides wireless messaging, e-mail, Web browsing and other applications. But it is also providing a hardware reference design for a device custom-made to support these applications.

"Essentially were working with a contract manufacturer and the carrier orders from the contract manufacturer," Niemi said.

At the time the Hiptop was announced the main competition was Research in Motions Blackberry e-mail pager. Since then, though, Handspring Inc. has started shipping the Treo device, which has functions similar to that of the Hiptop.

Much may depend on customer response to the way the device delivers Web content. (A Flash demonstration can be found at www.danger.com.)

"The RIM Blackberry is great because it delivers e-mail in a really easy to use way," said Christopher Bell, CTO of the People2People Group, a media services company in Boston, who currently uses a Blackberry 950 device. "It doesnt, however, do a great job with the Web. Its Web solutions are awkward and expensive for what they deliver."

He added, though, that the form factor is important, too.

"Its tough to use the Web on a small screen with a tiny keyboard even if it is great for e-mail," he said.

The Hiptops screen measures 2.6 inches diagonally.

Danger hopes to win customers by keeping the cost of the Hiptop below $200. Right now RIM sells two models of the Blackberry, which cost $399 and $499. The Treo costs $399 with the purchase of an additional GSM service plan and $549 without.

Much depends on the service itself, though. Carriers have yet to announce pricing for the Hiptop.

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