Hiptop Release Gets Delayed

Danger's device to be unveiled this spring; combines cell phone, personal digital assistant, pager.

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

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 the company soon will announce a partnership with VoiceStream Wireless Corp., which will be starting trials with the Hiptop within the month on its GSM/GPRS (Global System for Mobile Communications/General Packet Radio Service) network, which supports 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 Motion Ltd.s BlackBerry e-mail pager. Since then, Handspring Inc. has started shipping the Treo device, which has functions similar to those of the Hiptop.

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

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

Bell said, however, 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 said it hopes to win customers by keeping the Hiptops cost 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, however. Carriers have yet to announce pricing for the Hiptop.