Microsoft is killing off its Pocket PC and Smartphone brands in preference to the Windows Mobile name, an indication of how PDAs are merging with phones.

The decision will simplify Microsoft's product line by replacing three overlapping brands with one. However, it could cause confusion since that brand will cover radically different types of devices.

In the past 18 months, Microsoft has been pushing the Windows Mobile brand, but the Pocket PC and Smartphone names have remained in circulation. Over the next year or two, the product category names will be completely phased out as the technologies merge, said Scott Horn, a senior director in Microsoft's Mobile and Embedded Devices group, at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. "We are emphasising Windows Mobile as device categories are coming together," he said. He added that 90 percent of the code for Smartphone and Pocket PC is the same.

In the future, retailers will sell Windows Mobile devices, instead of Smartphones and Pocket PCs. Most of the devices will offer phone capabilities, according to Horn, and buyers will select based on a list of device capabilities and their needs. However, removing the distinction between phones and PDAs could cause confusion amongst customers. Horn said: "We will have to be more explicit in communicating device capabilities."

The Pocket PC name in particular has become a common brand and is used broadly for PDAs. Hewlett-Packard uses the Pocket PC name for its iPaq devices. Microsoft is working with device makers on the naming changes, Horn said.

Microsoft introduced Pocket PC as a brand in 2000 when it entered the PDA market. Smartphone came around in 2002 when the first phone running Microsoft software was introduced in Europe.