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Putting the Web in your pocket

Consumers could soon surf the World Wide Web, consult their personal electronic diaries or read a newspaper from a small gadget in their pocket - thanks to a project dreamed up by two British companies.

Under a strategic alliance announced this month, The Technology Partnership (TTP) of Royston, Hertfordshire, and East Anglia's STNC Enterprises are developing the technology that they claim will enable users to have a "smart phone" that is no bigger or more expensive than today's top-of- the range models.

The companies are confident of having something to show the companies to which they supply technology by early next year, with the first products expected to be on the shelves by the end of 1998.

Tony Milbourn, head of TTP's computer and communications division, said the device was much more than a mobile phone. "It becomes a newspaper, a train timetable, a restaurant guide, Yellow Pages, whatever you want."

With the global market for smart phones expected to be $2bn (pounds 1.2bn) a year by the end of the century, Ran Mokady, STNC's managing director, said: "The development of Webwalker will allow an even wider range of device manufacturers than before to produce smart phones that bring the Internet to your pocket, and which will allow more people on the move to access the vast resources of the Internet."

The companies are also intending to use the technology to obviate the need for bulky products by "effectively sticking together" personal organisers and cellular phones to drive the Internet into a range of new applications.

TTP, which employs 350 people from a range of engineering and technology- related disciplines, has grown to an annual turnover of pounds 40m over the past 10 years through developing innovative products and services in such industries as pharmaceuticals, office products and printing.

It claims to be the world's leading independent supplier of digital cellular technology for mobile phones, with licensing agreements struck with companies such as Hitachi, Acer and Analog Devices.

STNC specialises in the development of compact and efficient software suitable for use in consumer products with limited processing power. Its products are already in use in such well-known mobile electronic tools as Psion's series 3 and series 5 palmtops and Nokia's 9000 Communicator.