Orange has announced its new handheld, aimed at business users - the SPV M5000. Based on Windows Mobile 5.0, Orange is touting it as an alternative to carrying a laptop.

The M5000 includes a Qwerty keyboard slightly larger than the keyboards on many PDAs. It operates on Orange's 3G network and includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a still camera and video camera.

A few devices based on Windows Mobile 5.0 have been introduced in the US and T-Mobile in Germany started selling the MDA Pro, a Windows Mobile 5.0 PDA, earlier this month. The M5000 will be available in France, Switzerland and the UK in October and in other regions by the end of the year.

Windows Mobile 5.0 offers a couple of new features over previous versions. For one, the file formats for Microsoft applications are the same on Windows Mobile 5.0 as they are on a computer. Previous versions were a cut-down version that some users said didn't always translate well between computers and handheld devices.

In addition, with an upgrade expected to be available early next year, users will be able to make changes to documents stored on a corporate server. The device will automatically sync with the back-end server to reflect the changes.

This gives the M5000 has a leg up over the BlackBerry where users can view some Microsoft documents but can't create or change them or sync Microsoft documents with corporate servers.

"The challenge for Microsoft now is to convince IT decision makers that the solution is as secure as it says it is and as the BlackBerry by comparison," said Geoff Blaber, a research analyst covering European mobile devices for IDC.

The Blackberry is also attractive to some IT managers because users can't add applications, Blaber noted. "A Windows Mobile user can download and add applications to one's heart's content," he said. "From an IT perspective, that makes it more problematic in terms of device management."

The initial version of the M5000 won't include some recent messaging and security upgrades already announced by Microsoft but not yet available. The upgrades will be available for customers to download from the Orange website early next year, said Fran├žois Mahieu, head of business devices marketing for Orange.