Microsoft says that the next generation of smart phones, tablet personal computers, wireless monitors and personal digital assistants (PDAs) it is backing should be available later this year. Senior director of business management Steve Guggenheimer said the software to drive the devices was close to being completed and should be shipped to hardware manufacturers in time to get products into shops by autumn. The devices include the Windows-powered Smartphone 2002 and a new Pocket-PC hand-held computer. Both devices offer mobile-phone service, Internet access and organiser features but one is billed as a phone that works as a PDA, while the other is billed as a PDA that can be used as a phone. International strategy director for the mobile device division Roberto Cazzaro said beyond physical design and size, the devices were almost the same. The main difference would be whether people wanted to carry a PDA or a phone. Microsoft has an agreement with Samsung and several smaller firms to produce the Smartphones while 26 manufacturers use the Pocket-PC software. Tablet PCs are being designed in a number of varieties by companies including Acer and Compaq Computer. The devices are about the size of a thick clipboard and the main interface will be handwriting recognition. Mr Guggenheimer predicted Tablet PCs would be in high demand, particularly from corporate users seeking mobility and computing power. A less-powerful take on the Tablet PC is Mira. The system, also known as Windows CE.Net, features a lightweight wireless monitor that can be removed from the base station and carried around the home or office. There is no keyboard involved in the wireless mode and the user interacts with the computer using a smart pen and graphic interface on the monitor screen. 'This will appeal to a whole generation of people out there who are not comfortable with a keyboard and a mouse,' Mr Guggenheimer said. All of the software would be produced in English first, which could mean a delay in Chinese language products reaching Asia, Mr Guggenheimer said. Microsoft had worked closely with manufacturers in creating the devices but Mr Cazzaro said the software maker had no interest in expanding any further into the hardware business. 'The only piece of hardware we do is the Xbox and that is a different business proposition,' he said. Mr Cazzaro showed projections from research firm International Data Corp that predicted Microsoft software would power one in three mobile devices in use in Asia by 2006, compared with about one in six today. Microsoft's early forays into the sector were not successful but the company was committed to getting it right this time around. He said: 'Our devices were really bad. We learn from a product, we fix our mistakes and we get it right.' The media demonstration yesterday suggested 'getting it right' might still be a work in progress. Several of the applications failed to work properly and an infrared remote control device did not work at all, prompting Mr Guggenheimer to joke that the computers were suffering jet lag. 'Blame the 19 hours of travel it took to get the computers here,' he said.