HANDHELDS EXTEND THEIR REACH

HANDHELDS EXTEND THEIR REACH<@VM>If memory size is key, handhelds have range'from 2M to 32M





Philips Mobile Computing Group's new Nino 500 palmtop PC, priced at $449, offers a backlit color screen, 16M of RAM and a voice-memo feature.


New functions and improved performance make these PCs a practical tool for
users on the go.


By Richard W. Walker

GCN Staff

Decisions, decisions and more decisions.


That's what buyers of handheld PCs face when they go shopping in a market swarming with diverse form factors and prices.

Do you look for the shirt-pocket convenience of a sleek palmtop device such as 3Com Corp.'s new Palm V, or opt for the power and versatility of Casio Inc.'s flashy Cassiopeia E-105?


Do you go for one of the the new crop of Microsoft Windows CE devices, such as IBM's WorkPad z50 and Hewlett-Packard's Jornada 820, which are smaller, lighter versions of notebook computers? Or do you want something in between'say, NEC America Inc.'s MobilePro 770 or Compaq's C-Series 2010c?
'''
The quick answer is that the decision on whether to plunk down $199 or $999 for a handheld PC depends on what you're going to use it for.





Hitachi America's HPW 200EC handheld PC includes 16M of RAM and incorporates a 33.6-Kbps internal modem. It sells for $699.


If all you need is a connected organizer, then a palmtop may do. But if you plan to do extensive messaging, then you might want to consider a handheld with a keypad. Both types of devices are included in the accompanying chart.

But as handheld products of all kinds evolve and the market expands'industry watchers expect exponential growth over the next few years'there aren't any simple answers.

The latest palmtops are bristling with bells and whistles, which just raises more questions. Do you need a thin-film transistor screen for super-sharp color viewing? How about MPEG Layer-3 stereo sound capability?

One thing's for sure, handhelds have gained firm footing as genuine extensions of the desktop PC.

A case in point: Tom Polak, systems administrator at the U.S. Geological Survey in Anchorage, Alaska, downloads
e-mail from his office PC to his Palm III, reads it during his commute home, then writes short responses using the Palm's Graffiti handwriting-recognition software.

'I can't live without it now,' Polak said. 'It's my alternate brain.'





The compact Jornada 680 from Hewlett-Packard, priced at $899, has a 6.5-inch screen, 16M of RAM and a built-in 56-Kbps modem.


Emerging as a critical application for government use of handhelds is data management and collection.

Examples of handheld systems supplanting inefficient, paper-laden processes are appearing in several agencies.


The Army, for instance, is using palmtops to help automate its food-management system.

At Fort Hood, Texas, cafeteria cashiers use Palm computers with bar code scanners attached to the devices' serial ports. The cashiers scan the soldiers' identification cards bearing their name, service branch, meal-entitlement code, pay grade and Social Security number.

The Palm calculates how much each soldier owes for a meal, displays it and stores the data. At the end of the day, the Palm systems are synchronized with a Windows NT server, which uploads the data into an SQL database, returning any updated pricing and menu information. The server then generates a report based on the data.





Available with an integrated digital camera, Sharp Electronics' Mobilon HC-4600 handheld PC includes 16M of RAM and an internal modem. It's priced at $699.


Testing the waters

In Washington, the Navy's Computer and Telecommunications Station is developing applications for Palm devices. In one major pilot, sailors use Palm devices to gather maintenance data on equipment aboard mine ships.

And last March, Navy shipyard inspectors for the first time used Palm IIIx computers to check equipment on a ship'the destroyer USS O'Kane'before its maiden voyage. The information was then uploaded into a main database for analysis.

3Com's Palm Computing Inc. still dominates the commercial marketplace, having sold more than 4 million Palm devices since their introduction.





The Cassiopeia E-100 palmtop PC from Casio Inc. runs Windows CE 2.11 and has 16M of RAM and a 16-bit color display. Users enter data via touch screen or stylus.


Palm computers also have captured a major slice of the federal market'51 percent in a recent GCN survey.

But industry watchers see a battle of handheld operating systems shaping up: the Palm OS vs. Windows CE.

'Palm has the pulse of today's user in ease of use, real simplicity and long battery life,' said David Hayden, senior industry analyst for mobile information appliances at Mobile Insights Inc. of Mountain View, Calif. 'And they're starting to make some inroads in access to enterprise data.'

A looming face-off

Hayden said he believes that 'Palm will continue to dominate this year and most of next year, but the gravy days of Palm' could soon be over.

'If they don't make some radical changes as far as the way the industry is headed, they could have a real uphill battle against Windows CE,' he said.







What handheld buyers like
What's most important in a handheld PC? Here are the key factors, in order, as expressed by federal users in a recent GCN survey:

  • Convenience
  • Size
  • Battery life
  • Configuration
  • Synchronization with desktop PC
  • Weight
  • Compatibility with desktop
    applications
  • Display size


Windows CE 'right now has a lot of issues,' Hayden said. 'Battery life is not that good, the products are overpriced, the user interface is too difficult and synchronization doesn't work very well.'

But aggressive moves into the Windows CE arena by key original equipment manufacturers will lead to improvements in the CE system, he added.

Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Everex Systems Inc. all have introduced in the last year handhelds that run CE.

'One of two things is going to happen'or both,' Hayden said. 'Either Microsoft is going to streamline the operating system, make it easier to use, bring the cost down, increase battery life and still add those features without increasing complexity, or 3Com is going to find a way to add key features to its OS'though it will never do everything a Windows CE device does'and then add some more strategic partners.'



All of this is good news for handheld users, who are increasingly looking for more functionality in their devices and, perhaps more palpably, easier remote access to enterprise data'which means that the days of trying to dial into the network over land lines may be numbered.

The buzzword these days is wireless. And by all accounts, handheld users can look forward to a wireless future.





Priced at $499, the Freestyle 540 from Everex Systems Inc. has 16M of base memory and comes with a stylus.


'Integrated wireless communication is going to be the catalyst that leads to the pervasive use of handheld computers,' Hayden said. 'It's the killer application.'

'Wireless connectivity will be ubiquitous,' predicted Diana Roberson, director of product marketing for 3Com's wireless and home connectivity division, a new unit designed to capitalize on the growing consumer interest in wireless computing.

Palm has taken the first major step toward the wireless future with its new Palm VII.'
'
'What Palm did right was they integrated it,' Hayden said. 'It's not this option where you have to buy a separate modem and then you have to configure [domain naming settings] and work through the technical difficulties inherent anytime you install these devices. Palm addressed one of the main obstacles, which is ease of use in the start-up period.'

For handheld buyers, such striking advances in wireless connectivity may mean that the future is now, or at least just over the next rise.










































































































































































































































































































Vendor

Product

Base

memory

Operating

system

Ports/expansion

slots

Input

Dimensions

in inches

Price

Casio Inc.

Dover, N.J.

800-962-2746

www.casio-usa.com

Cassiopeia E-11

8M

Windows CE

2.11

1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 CompactFlash card

Stylus,

keypad

0.7 by 4.9 by 3.2

$299

Cassiopeia E-15

16M

Windows CE

2.1

1 serial, 1 infrared,

CompactFlash card

Stylus,

touch-screen

0.6 by 5 by 3.2

$399

Cassiopeia E-100

16M

Windows CE

2.11

1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 CompactFlash card

Stylus,

touch-screen

0.6 by 5 by 3.2

$599

Cassiopeia E-105

32M

Windows CE

2.11

1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 CompactFlash card

Stylus,

touch-screen

0.7 by 4.9 by 3.2

$599

Compaq Computer

Corp.

Houston

281-370-0670

www.compaq.com

C-Series 2010c

20M

Windows CE 2.0

1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 PC Card,

internal modem

Stylus,

keypad

1.6 by 7.3 by 3.9

$645

Aero 2100

8M/16M

Windows CE 2.0

1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 PC Card

Stylus,

touch-screen

0.8 by 5.3 by 3.3

$449/

$549

Aero 8000

16M

Windows CE 2.0

1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 PC Card,

1 CompactFlash card,

internal modem

Keypad,

trackpad

1 by 8.5 by 10.7

$949

Everex Systems Inc.

Fremont, Calif.

510/498-1111

www.everex.com

Executive A-20

16M

Windows CE 2.0

1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 CompactFlash card

Stylus,

touch-screen

0.7 by 4.8 by 3.2

$399

Manager A-15

8M

Windows CE 2.0

1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 CompactFlash card

Stylus,

touch-screen

0.7 by 4.8 by 3.2

$249

Freestyle 540

16M

Windows CE 3.0

1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 CompactFlash card

Stylus,

touch-screen

0.9 by 5.4 by 3.4

$499

Hewlett-Packard Co.

Palo Alto, Calif.

650-857-1501

www.hp.com

Jornada 420

8M

Windows CE

2.11

1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 CompactFlash card

Stylus

0.9 by 5.1 by 3.2

$449

Jornada 680

16M

Windows CE

2.11

1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 PC Card,

1 CompactFlash card,

internal modem

Stylus,

keypad

1.3 by 7.4 by 3.7

$899

Jornada 820

16M

Windows CE

2.11

1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 PC Card,

1 CompactFlash card,

internal modem

Keypad,

touchpad

1.3 by 9.7 by 7

$799

Hitachi America Ltd.

Brisbane, Calif.

800-225-1741

www.hitachi.com

HPW-200EC

16M

Windows CE 2.0

1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 VGA-out, 1 PC

Card, internal

modem

Stylus,

keypad

1.3 by 10 by 5.2

$699

IBM Corp.

Armonk, N.Y.

800-772-2227

www.ibm.com

WorkPad 30x

4M

Palm OS 3.1

1 serial, 1 infrared

Stylus,

touch-screen

0.7 by 4.7 by 3.2

$373

WorkPad c3
2M
Palm OS 3.1

1 serial, 1 infrared

Stylus,

touch-screen

0.4 by 4.5 by 3.1

$429

WorkPad Z50

16M

Windows CE 3.0

1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 PC Card,

internal modem

Keypad,

trackpoint

1 by 10.2 by 8

$999

LG Electronics Inc.

Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

201-816-2000

www.lgeus.com

Phenom Ultra

12M

Windows CE 2.0

1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 VGA-out, 1 PC Card,

1 CompactFlash card,

internal modem

Stylus,

keypad

1.3 by 9.9 by 5.2

$499

NEC America Inc.

Mountain View, Calif.

888-446-8632

www.nec.com


MobilePro 770

32M

Windows CE 3.0

1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 VGA out, 1 PC Card,

1 CompactFlash card,

internal modem, USB

Stylus,

keypad

1.1 by 5.2 by 9.6

$799

MobilePro 800

32M

Windows CE 3.0


1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 VGA out, 1 PC Card,

1 CompactFlash card,

internal modem, USB

Stylus,

keypad

1.4 by 9.6 by 5.4

$999

Novatel Wireless Inc.

San Diego

888-262-0172

www.

novatelwireless.com

Contact wireless

handheld PC

16M

to 32M

Windows CE 2.0

1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 PC Card, internal

wireless IP modem

Stylus,

keypad

1.3 by 7.8 by 5.1

$999

Philips Mobile

Computing Group

Campbell, Calif.

408-558-2200

www.

mobile.philips.com

Nino 200

8M

Windows CE 2.0

1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 CompactFlash card

Stylus,

touch-screen

0.7 by 5.2 by 3.4

$299

Nino 300

4M/8M

Windows CE 2.0

1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 CompactFlash card

Stylus,

touch-screen

1 by 6.9 by 3.6

$349/

$499

Nino 500

16M

Windows CE 2.0

1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 CompactFlash card

Stylus,

touch-screen

0.7 by 5.2 by 3.4

$449

Psion Inc.

Concord, Mass.

978-371-0310

www.psion.com

Series 3mx

2M

Psion OS

1 serial, 1 infrared

Keypad

0.9 by 6.5 by 3.3

$349

Series 5mx

16M

EPOC32

1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 CompactFlash card

Stylus,

keypad

1 by 6.7 by 3.5

$549

Sharp Electronics

Corp.

Mahwah, N.J.

201-529-8200

www.sharp-usa.com

Mobilon TriPad

PV-6000

16M

Windows CE 2.1

1 serial, 1 PC Card,

1 CompactFlash card,

internal modem

Stylus,

keypad

0.9 by 8.9 by

11.4

$999

Mobilon Pro

PV-5000

16M

Windows CE 2.1

1 serial, 1 infrared,

1 PC Card,

internal modem

Stylus,

keypad

1.1 by 9.3 by 7.7

$899

Mobilon

HC-4100

12M

Windows CE 2.0

1 serial, 1 PC Card,

internal modem

Keypad,

touch-screen

1 by 7.3 by 3.7

$449

Mobilon

HC-4600

16M

to 32M

Windows CE 2.0

1 serial, 1 PC Card,

internal modem

Keypad,

touch-screen

1 by 7.3 by 3.7

$699

3Com Corp.

Santa Clara, Calif.

408-326-9000

www.3com.com

Palm III

2M

Palm OS 3.0

1 serial

Stylus,

touch-screen

0.7 by 4.7 by 3

$249

Palm IIIx

4M

Palm OS 3.1

1 serial, 1 infrared

Stylus,

touch-screen

0.7 by 4.7 by 3.2

$369

Palm V

2M

Palm OS 3.1

1 serial, 1 infrared

Stylus,

touch-screen


0.4 by 4.5 by 3.1

$449

Palm VII

2M

Palm OS 3.2

1 serial, 1 infrared

Stylus,

touch-screen

0.7 by 5.2 by 3.2

$599

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