Vendors unleash new handhelds for Pocket PC 2002

To coincide with the Oct. 4 launch of Microsoft Corp.’s new Pocket PC 2002 operating system, handheld vendors plan to unveil new devices running the software. Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) has already launched handhelds using the operating system, while Compaq Computer Corp., Symbol Technologies Inc., Casio Inc. and Toshiba Corp. all confirmed they will announce new products.

Pocket PC 2002 is Microsoft’s second version of the operating system for handhelds, which the company said incorporates the top requests for enhancements from business users. Among the features new to Pocket PC 2002 are handwriting recognition, the ability to “beam” information to devices running either Pocket PC or Palm Inc.’s competing operating system and support for VPNs (virtual private networks).

HP is the only major vendor to reveal details regarding handhelds that will use the new operating system before the Pocket PC 2002 launch. It unveiled its new Jornada 560 handheld series at the Demomobile conference in La Jolla, California, last month. The new Jornadas include more memory, longer battery life and less weight than previous models. Each handheld in the Jornada 560 series weighs six ounces (168 grams), and has removable batteries lasting up to 14 hours, HP said.

The HP Jornada 565, which features 32MB of RAM, will cost US$599, while the Jornada 568, which features 64MB of RAM, will be priced at US$649. Both models will be available in stores Oct. 4, with HP offering a US$50 mail rebate for both products beginning at the launch.

One analyst said that the new Jornadas have an advantage over the competition. “HP has removable battery packs and fairly long-life batteries,” said Todd Kort, principal analyst with Gartner Inc. “That will appeal to the vertical markets that have been needing longer battery life.”

Compaq, Symbol, Casio and Toshiba are among the vendors planning to roll out devices. Besides all sharing the Pocket PC 2002 operating system, they have another thing in common – Intel Corp.’s 206MHz StrongARM processor.

Compaq is offering the iPaq Pocket PC H3700 and H3800 series, both of which feature 64MB of RAM. The H3700 is largely an upgrade from the H3600 for the new operating system, while the H3800 is completely new, and features an SD (secure digital) memory card slot. Both versions have a TFT (thin-film transistor) screen capable of more than 65,000 colours, and increased battery life over prior versions, Compaq said in a statement. The iPaq also includes IBM Corp.’s ViaVoice Mobility Suite, which allows voice commands for the calendar, contacts and inbox features, Compaq said.

The iPaq H3700 is available in North America and Europe for US$499, and the H3800 series will be available in November, Compaq said. The H3850 and H3835 without integrated Bluetooth wireless capabilities will cost US$599, and the H3870 with integrated Bluetooth will cost US$649, the company said.

“The Bluetooth feature will probably be most appealing in the European market, where they might be able to integrate that into the mobile phones that use Bluetooth,” Kort said.

Symbol unveiled colour versions of two of its existing devices running the Pocket PC operating system. The PPT 2800 and PDT 8100 both now have colour screens and both run Pocket PC 2002, the company said in a statement. Both devices also feature built-in bar code scanning, the company said.

The PPT 2800 and the PDT 8100 both have 32MB of RAM, and are rugged systems, designed to withstand harsh environments and multiple drops to concrete from heights up to 4 feet, the company said. The PPT 2800 is a pen-based handheld, while the PDT 8100 has both a stylus and a keyboard. The colour PPT 2800 starts at US$1,795, and the colour PDT 8100 is priced from US$2,495, the company said. Both models are available now.

Casio Inc. unveiled the Cassiopeia E-200, with a 3.5-inch (8.9 centimetre) colour TFT display. The E-200, which has 64MB of RAM, has slots for both CompactFlash and SD cards, as well as an optional PC Card unit, Casio said in a statement. The E-200, which will be available from early November, will be priced at about US$599, Casio said.

Casio may be the company that has trouble gaining acceptance for its Pocket PC device, Kort said. “Casio is perceived as more of a consumer-oriented company and they’re playing in an enterprise market,” Kort said. Another problem for Casio may be that it doesn’t have the mobile infrastructure of HP, Compaq or Toshiba, all of which have notebooks on the market, Kort said.

“One of the problems a lot of Asian vendors have here in North America is that if they don’t have a strong notebook presence, they’ll have a hard time being seen as a credible player,” Kort said.

Toshiba America Information Systems (TAIS) lifted the lid on its own PDA (personal digital assistant). The Toshiba Pocket PC e570 also has an SD slot as well as a CompactFlash slot built in, the company said in a statement. The CompactFlash slot can be used for a variety of add-on devices, including a modem or a global positioning system (GPS) device. The e570 has 64MB of RAM, weighs 6.3 ounces and has a battery life of up to eight hours, the company said. The e570 will be available in November for US$569, Toshiba said.

“Toshiba has the dual-slot architecture, that’s something that almost all of the vendors need to be thinking about moving to,” Kort said. “That allows you to be wireless and have a storage device at the same time,” he said. However, the Toshiba may be harder to find this year than other brands. “Toshiba won’t really get theirs out in volume until the first quarter of next year,” Kort said.

HP is at http://www.hp.com/.

Compaq is at http://www.compaq.com/.

Symbol Technologies is at http://www.symbol.com/.

Casio Inc. is at http://www.casio.com/.

Toshiba America is at http://www.shoptoshiba.com/.

Microsoft is at http://www.microsoft.com/.