Microsoft unveils Pocket PC |  Hardware

AT THE CEBIT SHOW last week, Microsoft took the wraps off its rival to 3Com's Palm series, the Pocket PC, which ran the first Microsoft browser built for Windows CE Pocket Internet Explorer.

"It's a little bulky at the moment, but the final version will be as thin as the Cassiopeia," said Georg Wolf, director of marketing for the communications services division of Siemens, which along with Casio Computer built the prototype that Microsoft showed off.

The Casio PC will have e-mail capabilities, mobile Internet access, and GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) telephone capabilities through a standard headset, said Greg Levin, director of marketing at Microsoft Europe.

Along with the capability of connecting to the Internet over a conventional or wireless modem, the company said that Pocket PC will be able to connect over LANs, PANs (personal area networks), and WANs.

Microsoft officials said the first Pocket PC products will ship during the first half of this year. Pocket PCs were first announced by chairman Bill Gates at the Consumer Electronics show in January.

Hardware manufacturers on board include Casio, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, Siemens, and Symbol Technologies.

Although it is an improvement on the current palm-size PC platform, it remains to be seen if Microsoft can gain share on the market-leading Palm OS. Indeed, the Pocket PC could be Microsoft's last stand in the palm-sized device segment, said Diana Hwang, program manager for mobile research at International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass.

"If this [mobile device] doesn't work for Microsoft this time, then I think that's it for Microsoft," Hwang said.

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