Since I usually carry around both my Visor Edge and my mobile phone, I’ve been carefully watching Handspring’s new Communicators, aka Treos. Reviews for these PDA/Phone combos have been good. In addition to the reduced pocket space, the integration of the PDA contact list with phone dialing and caller ID is sweet. Add wireless web browsing and the device is quite compelling.

Unfortunately, It doesn’t look like I’ll be able to get one anytime soon.

The first two models, the Treo 180 and 270, were only compatible with GSM. Unfortunately, my mobile phone is from Verizon and uses CDMA (an incompatible standard). If I change companies so I can get a GSM phone, I loose my phone number. Since my mobile phone is my only phone, I don’t want the hassle of changing phone numbers (that’s part of the reason I got a mobile phone in the first place).

There was a glimmer of hope. Handspring’s new Treo 300 is a CDMA phone. Horray. Unfortunately, it was developed with Sprint and is tied to Sprint’s PCS network. Since Sprint and Verizon are competitors, and Sprint and Handspring are in bed together, it will probably be some time before Handspring releases a Treo that will work on Verizon’s network.

To exacerbate the situation, Microsoft and Verizon are working together on Thera, which uses Microsoft PocketPC OS. PocketPC is a direct competitor to PalmOS, which is used by Handspring. Verizon is probably too close to Microsoft to cooperate with Handspring. All this means that we probably won’t see a Treo that works with Verizon anytime soon. I could switch to Thera, but I like the PalmOS too much to switch to a PocketPC.

I’m not particularly attached to Verizon, though, just my phone number. The FCC already insists that consumers be able to switch phone companies and keep the same number, called phone number portability, but this rule does not yet apply to mobile phones. The FCC ruled that wireless companies must also provide number portability before November 24, 2002. Verizon petitioned to have this mandate removed or delayed. They have their customers by the balls and they like it that way. They succeeded in delaying the deadline another year. If this date sticks, I’ll all be able to bounce my existing mobile phone number to any company I want in a little more than a year. Then I can switch to Sprint PCS or a GSM-based service and get my Treo.

To summarize: Verizon is with Microsoft (PocketPC) and Verizon owns my phone number. Sprint is with Handspring (PalmOS) and PalmOS is what I want to use. For now, I’m shit out of luck. The FCC will bail me out in a year, unless it buckles to Verizon’s lobbyists again. Then I can dump Verizon and buy my Treo.