Acer plans to introduce PDA phones in 2006

Acer plans to add a mobile-phone function to its line of PDAs next year.

Taiwanese hardware vendor Acer plans to add mobile-phone functions to its line of PDAs (personal digital assistants) next year, but specific details of the company's plans are scarce.

"We're going to do PDAs with phone function next year," said Campbell Kan, head of Acer's mobile computing business unit, during an interview at the Computex exhibition in Taipei. In addition to the phone function, the PDAs will also support IEEE 802.11 WLAN (wireless LAN), also known as Wi-Fi, he said.

Wireless connectivity in the form of Wi-Fi or mobile telephony has become an increasingly common feature in many PDA models.

Acer has yet to finalize its plans to add the mobile function to its PDA line, and the company is not in a position to reveal details about what the products may look like when they are released next year, Kan said. Many of these details will not be finalized until later this year, he said.

One of the options under consideration is whether the first phone-enabled PDAs will support GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) or 3G (third-generation) mobile services, Kan said. "It really depends on how things are going with the deployment of 3G," he said.

One option not under consideration is for Acer to start selling mobile phones. The company is not considering plans to offer a phone that cannot also be used as a PDA, Kan said.

While sales of traditional PDAs are in decline, Acer sees a bright future for phone-enabled PDAs as companion devices for notebooks, allowing users to access and manipulate data at times when using their notebook isn't practical or convenient, Kan said. "With the phone function, you can be online, you can download a file, or whatever," he said.

Acer expects to announce more details about its future PDA plans before the end of this year, Kan said.

Computex runs through Friday.