NEW YORK - T-Mobile USA on Tuesday will launch the first cell phone in the U.S. to come with Microsoft's latest version of Windows Mobile, with improved handling of e-mail and tougher security.
The T-Mobile Wing costs $299 with a two-year contract and runs Windows Mobile 6, Microsoft Corp.'s latest operating system for "smart" phones, which handle e-mail, documents and Web browsing in addition to phone calls.
It's a competitive space: Microsoft is trying to translate its dominance in PC software into an advantage versus Research in Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry, Palm Inc.'s Treo and Apple Inc.'s soon-to-launch iPhone.
The advances in the new Windows Mobile version are incremental rather than revolutionary. It lets users read e-mail with embedded images and graphics, and can be set up to receive e-mail instantly from Windows Live Hotmail. It also supports Live's instant messaging program and Web search. Synchronization of data with Windows Vista computers via Bluetooth wireless connections has been simplified.
Security features have been beefed up to appeal to corporate users: If used in conjunction with Microsoft's latest software for corporate e-mail servers, the memory of a lost or stolen device can be wiped remotely by the owner through an Outlook account, with no need to call the IT department.
Files stored on removable memory cards can be encrypted, and the device can send and receive e-mail whose readership is controlled by Information Rights Management, useful for sensitive data.
Windows Mobile 6 also allows the user to search remotely stored e-mail and corporate address books.
The Wing features a 40-key keyboard that slides out from underneath the 2.8-inch touchscreen. The phone is similar to the discontinued T-Mobile MDA, but smaller, and like the MDA is made by High Tech Computer Corp. of Taiwan.
T-Mobile lacks a third-generation broadband cellular network in the U.S., lagging behind the larger cellular carriers. The Wing makes up for this in part by including the capability to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots.
Microsoft released Windows Mobile 6 in February. HTC-made phones sporting the software have gone on sale in Europe in the last few months.
Windows Mobile 6 has been available for a few weeks as a download for T-Mobile's Dash smart phone, but the upgrade wipes the handset's memory of all user data. Dash phones with the new software pre-installed will be available in June, T-Mobile said.
The carrier said the Dash and the BlackBerry Pearl, which launched last year, have widened the customer base for smart phones beyond corporate road warriors. It says most of the buyers are getting them to replace regular consumer-level camera phones.
T-Mobile USA is a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom AG of Germany.