After building PDAs (personal digital assistants) and mobile phone hybrids based on software from Microsoft and its rival Palm, Samsung said yesterday it is working on a device running Symbian's OS (operating system).

Seoul-based Samsung — the world's fourth-largest mobile-phone maker in terms of units shipped, according to research firm Gartner — is the first with plans to offer a portfolio of handsets with operating systems from the three archrivals.

"We are developing a Symbian-based smartphone," said Jay Yeo, product planning manager for Samsung's wireless terminal division, in an interview at CeBit trade fair in Hanover. "The software makers mind, but they can't force us to stick to one or two operating systems — we live in a free world."

Samsung was also showing off the finished version of its wireless handheld PC, the Nexio, at CeBit (pictured). In light of the brouhaha surrounding the Microsoft Mira project, typified by Philips' effort, this seems a good trend move.

For more information about Mira, see this our Weekend edition, online tomorrow.

For the smartphone, Samsung will support the three platforms to offer the broadest choice possible to its customers, which will initially be corporate users, Yeo said.

Users of PDAs based on Microsoft's Pocket PC OS will feel comfortable with a handset powered by Microsoft's SmartPhone 2002 OS, while Palm PDA users might prefer a Palm OS-based phone, he said.

Work just started on the phone-cum-PDA based on the Symbian software, so a release date is not available.

Meanwhile, Samsung plans to introduce handsets based on Microsoft's SmartPhone 2002 OS, previously known by the codename Stinger, as well as on the Palm OS in Europe in the fourth quarter in time for the holiday shopping season, according to Yeo.

Yeo showed a prototype of the SmartPhone 2002-based Samsung handset, a flip-phone with a 176x220 TFT (thin film transistor) display. The device comes with Flash memory and RAM but Yeo declined to specify the amount of memory.