Got handhelds figured out? Wait 10 minutes

Got handhelds figured out? Wait 10 minutes<@VM>These units let you travel light but stay in touch with the office

Makers continue to load the ever-changing portable devices with features, power and multimedia functions

BY RICHARD W. WALKER | GCN STAFF

The one sure thing about the landscape for handheld PCs is that it's constantly changing. If you're looking to buy a handheld, get ready for a ride over unsettled terrain.

'It's a market in transition,' said Ken Dulaney, vice president of mobile computing for Gartner Inc. of Stamford, Conn.


Palm's M505 features an integrated Secure Digital Card expansion slot. It's priced at $449.
At the upper end, handhelds are no longer sober personal information managers that executives in gray suits synchronize with their PCs. The latest flashily colored handhelds are bursting with power, ports and multimedia support.

Handhelds are turning into'get ready for a new acronym'PDE (personal digital entertainment) devices.

Call for wireless

Moreover, the rising demand for wireless messaging portends a new wave of options for buyers, including smart-phone devices with onscreen keypads that represent a convergence of handhelds and cellular phones.

In addition, major changes could be ahead for Palm Inc., the market's long-time leader.

Gartner's Dulaney, who's based in San Jose, Calif., believes that Palm will soon have to make some decisions about its processor architecture.

In a recent Gartner report, Dulaney said that 'as the bearer of the Palm platform, [Palm] must manage a transition to an entirely new chip architecture to match' Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Pocket PC and other platforms such as Symbian Ltd.'s 32-bit EPOC operating system.

'These competitors' platforms run the ARM architecture, which is seven times more powerful than Palm's architecture,' Dulaney said, referring to RISC chips from ARM Inc. of Los Gatos, Calif.

Palm on top

Palm is still king of the handheld hill with its own units, but has lost about 7 percent of its market share since November, according to NPD Intellect Market Tracking of New York.


The Lowdown

  • What is it? A handheld PC is a device that you can hold in one hand and operate with the other hand. Users of tablet-style handhelds tap an on-screen keyboard with a stylus, use an integrated handwriting-recognition system or type on an attachable keyboard. Clamshell-style users use integrated keypads for data input and a stylus for pointing. Most handhelds let users synchronize data with their desktop PCs via serial or Universal Serial Bus ports. Some also have wireless connections that allow Internet access on the go.


  • When do I need one? You need one if you want easy portability of basic data. Even light users may find it convenient to carry basic information on a tablet-style handheld. Users who input a lot of data and don't mind a cramped keyboard might want a clamshell-style device.


  • When don't I need one? If you don't need to synchronize data with your PC or need Internet access on the go, and if you find that using an old-fashioned date book and a pen works just fine, forget it. The date book doesn't need batteries, and it won't crash.


  • Must-know info? Identify your requirements and don't pay for features you don't need. Here's more advice from Gartner Inc. mobile analyst Ken Dulaney: 'Recognize that the market is in transition. Buy a nice, inexpensive unit, sit back, wait and buy yourself a new machine next year.'

  • NPD reported that as of February Palm held a 64-percent stake, down from 71 percent in November last year.

    At the same time, Handspring Inc. continues to make inroads with its Visor handhelds, which use the Palm OS. Handspring's share of the handheld space grew to nearly 20 percent in February, NPD said.

    Handspring recently reported a 261 percent jump in quarterly revenue.

    Palm is feeling pressure from companies whose devices use the Pocket PC OS, especially those from Compaq iPaq line, Dulaney said.

    'We're seeing Microsoft come into play via the Compaq iPaq,' he said. 'We're getting a lot more calls about the iPaq from people who want to use it.'

    Compaq recently announced that it plans to quadruple production of iPaq devices to 400,000 units a month.

    Meanwhile, more makers are offering devices using either Palm OS or Pocket PC, giving shoppers a slew of choices in the tablet-style form factor.

    More OS devices

    Palm recently released the 4-ounce M500 and the M505, which has a color screen; both are based on the Palm V. Handspring has introduced its sleek Visor Edge, and Sony Corp. of America has come out with its Clie, another Palm OS device.

    Later this month, IBM Corp. plans to unveil a new version of its WorkPad handheld, based on Palm's M500 and M505, an IBM spokesman said.

    On the Pocket PC front, Casio Inc.'s Cassiopeia E-125V, Compaq's iPaq 3650 and Hewlett-Packard's Jornada 547 have hit the streets in the last year.

    What the latest handhelds have in common is expandability.

    Palm's new M500 and M505 devices feature a Secure Digital Card slot, which lets users take advantage of a wide range of expansion products supported by a consortium of more than 200 companies, the SD Card Association (www.sdcard.org).

    Among other new devices, Sony's Clie uses Memory Sticks to expand memory to 128M.

    'Expansion is a good feature, but a lot of people haven't used it yet,' Gartner's Dulaney said. 'I think expansion is the next stage of hardware growth, but I'm not sure it's driving the market because you're getting growth in the market at the low end, where devices don't have expansion slots.'

    Meanwhile, the market continues to shrink for clamshell-style keypad devices.

    Only Hewlett-Packard has continued to pursue a niche between palmtop devices and full-blown notebooks in the last year by launching its $999 Jornada 720.

    What's in store?

    What can handheld buyers expect down the road? Dulaney thinks that most shoppers will stick with tablet-style handhelds as improvements are made in integrated wireless messaging and Web access. Not everyone will want a converged device or smart phone.

    'Smart phones are caught between handhelds and cell phones and probably aren't going to be that exciting,' he said. 'What's going to happen [eventually] is that most people will probably buy a cell phone with Bluetooth in it, and they'll have a [personal digital assistant] with Bluetooth in it, and they'll go from the PDA to the cell phone up to Internet.'

    For now, what users buy could be a matter of taste.

    'This is much more like the fashion market than the PC market,' Dulaney said. 'We don't all wear the same watch, and we won't all have the same PDAs.'







































































































































































































    CompanyProductBase MemoryOperating
    System
    Ports/ExpansionDisplayPrice
    Data input: Stylus, touch screen

    Casio Inc.

    Dover, N.J.

    800-962-2746

    www.casio-usa.com

    E-125V

    32M

    Win Pocket PC

    1 serial/USB, 1 infrared, 1 CompactFlash card

    LCD color, backlit

    $550

    EM-500

    16M

    Win Pocket PC

    1 serial/USB, 1 infrared, 1 multimedia card slot

    LCD color, backlit

    $400

    Compaq Computer Corp.

    Houston

    281-370-0670

    www.compaq.com

    iPaq H3150

    16M

    Win Pocket PC

    PC Card expansion pack slot, 1 infrared, 1 serial/USB

    LCD monochrome,backlit
    $349

    iPaq H3650

    32M/64M

    Win Pocket PC

    PC Card expansion pack slot, 1 infrared, 1 serial/USB

    LCD color, backlit

    $499
    to $649

    Handspring Inc.

    Mountain View, Calif.

    650-230-5000

    www.handspring.com

    Visor

    2M

    Palm OS 3.1

    1 Springboard expansion slot, 1 serial/USB, 1 infrared
    LCD monochrome, backlit$169

    Visor Deluxe

    8M

    Palm OS 3.1

    1 Springboard expansion slot, 1 serial/USB, 1 infrared

    LCD monochrome, backlit

    $199

    Visor Edge

    8M

    Palm OS 3.1.2

    1 Springboard expansion slot, 1 serial/USB, 1 infrared

    LCD monochrome, backlit

    $399

    Visor
    Platinum

    8M

    Palm OS 3.1.2

    1 Springboard expansion slot, 1 serial/USB, 1 infrared

    LCD monochrome, backlit

    $299

    Visor Prism

    8M

    Palm OS 3.1.2

    1 Springboard expansion slot, 1 serial/USB, 1 infrared

    LCD color, backlit

    $449

    Hewlett-Packard Co.

    Palo Alto, Calif.

    650-857-1501

    www.hp.com

    Jornada 520

    16M

    Win Pocket PC

    1 serial, 1 infrared, 1 CompactFlash card

    LCD color, backlit

    $359

    Jornada 547

    32M

    Win Pocket PC

    1 serial, 1 infrared, 1 CompactFlash card

    LCD color, backlit

    $499

    IBM Corp.

    Armonk, N.Y.

    800-772-2227

    www.ibm.com

    WorkPad 3c

    8M

    Palm OS 3.5

    1 serial, 1 infrared
    LCD monochrome, backlit$314

    Palm Inc.

    Santa Clara, Calif.

    408-326-9000

    www.palm.com

    Palm IIIc

    8M

    Palm OS 3.5

    1 serial, 1 infrared
    LCD color, backlit$299

    Palm IIIxe

    8M

    Palm OS 3.5

    1 serial, 1 infrared
    LCD color, backlit$249

    Palm Vx

    8M

    Palm OS 3.5

    1 serial, 1 infrared
    LCD monochrome, backlit$349

    Palm VIIx

    8M

    Palm OS 3.5

    1 serial, 1 infrared, integrated wireless Web access with Palm.net service agreement
    LCD monochrome, backlit
    $399

    Palm M105

    8M

    Palm OS 4.0

    1 serial, 1 infrared
    LCD monochrome, backlit$199

    Palm M500

    8M

    Palm OS 4.0

    1 USB, 1 infrared, 1 Secure Digital Card slot, 1 universal
    connector
    LCD monochrome, backlit
    $399

    Palm M505

    8M

    Palm OS 4.0

    1 USB, 1 infrared, 1 Secure Digital Card slot, 1 universal
    connector
    LCD color, backlit$449

    Sony Corp. of America

    Park Ridge, N.Y.

    800-571-7669

    www.sonystyle.com

    Clie
    PEG-S300

    8M

    Palm OS 3.5

    1 USB, 1 infrared
    LCD monochrome, backlit$299

    Vtech Information LLC

    Beaverton, Ore.

    503-646-2880

    www.vtechinfo.com

    Helio

    8M

    Vech-OS

    1 serial, 1 expansion connector
    LCD monochrome$179
    Data input: keypad, touch screen

    Hewlett-Packard Co.

    Jornada 720

    32M

    Win Pocket PC

    1 serial, 1 infrared, 1 PC Card, 1 CompactFlash card, 1 RJ11 modem port
    LCD color, backlit$999

    NEC America Inc.

    Dallas

    888-632-8701

    www.neccomp.com

    MobilePro 780

    32M

    Win CE

    1 serial/USB, 1 infrared, 1 PC Card, 1 CompactFlash card,
    1 RJ11 modem port
    LCD color (8.1-inch diagonal)$899

    MobilePro 880

    32M

    Win CE, Symbian Epoc 5.0

    1 serial/USB, 1 infrared, 1 PC Card, 1 CompactFlash card,
    1 RJ11 modem port
    LCD color (9.4-inch diagonal)$1,099

    Psion Inc.

    Concord, Mass.

    978-371-0310

    www.psionusa.com

    Revo/
    Revo Plus

    8M/16M

    Symbian
    Epoc 5.0

    1 serial, 1 infrared,
    LCD monochrome$329
    to $399

    Series 5mx

    16M

    Symbian Epoc 5.0

    1 serial, 1 infrared, 1 CompactFlash card
    LCD monochrome, backlit$499

    Series 7

    16M

    Symbian Epoc 5.0

    1 serial, 1 infrared, 1 CompactFlash card
    LCD monochrome, backlit$899


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