Dell adds Bluetooth, new XScale chips to Axim PDAs

Dell Inc. plans to unveil three new Axim personal digital assistants (PDAs) Tuesday, adding the Bluetooth short-range wireless networking technology to its PDAs for the first time.

The new Axim X30 models are also Dell's first PDAs to use Intel Corp.'s new XScale processors. Four PXA270 processors were released in April, featuring various clock speeds and improved security and multimedia features. Dell customers can choose between the 312MHz processor or the fastest chip in the group, the 624MHz processor.

PalmOne Inc.'s new Zire 72 was launched in April with the 312MHz chip.

Dell's customers can also choose between nonwireless or wireless versions of the X30. The two wireless configurations come with support for 802.11b Wi-Fi networks as well as Bluetooth.

Bluetooth is designed as a cable-replacement technology for peripheral devices such as keyboards or headsets, said Gervaise Nix, product marketing manager for Axim. Several customers in Europe also use Bluetooth PDAs to connect to Bluetooth cell phones to synchronize data and connect to the Internet over the cell phone's modem, she said.

Rival PDA companies such as PalmOne Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) have already added Bluetooth to their products. The wireless technology is appreciated by tech-savvy users but mainstream users have found it difficult to set up and configure.

However, it is becoming much easier to use Bluetooth to connect to peripheral devices, said Todd Kort, principal analyst with Gartner Inc. in San Jose, California. Dell likely decided to wait until many of Bluetooth's problems had been ironed out before releasing a Bluetooth PDA, he said.

In June, Dell will introduce several peripherals such as a Bluetooth keyboard and a GPS (Global Positioning System) kit to use in conjunction with the Axim X30, Nix said.

PDA shipments have steadily declined over the last few years, but Dell has gained market share since launching its first handheld in 2002. It now ranks in fourth place among all PDA vendors, behind PalmOne, HP and Sony Corp. in terms of shipments.

Dell is one of the first PDA vendors to release a device based on the new Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition operating system unveiled in March, Kort said. Other PDAs from vendors such as HP will follow in coming months, he said. HP didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.

The X30 has the same dimensions as the X3, a slimmed-down version of Dell's original X5 PDA, Nix said. The X30 measures 122.4 millimeters high by 77.2 millimeters wide by 14.9 millimeters thick and weighs 139 grams. It comes with a 3.5-inch display and a Secure Digital I/O slot.

The Axim X30 costs US$199 without any wireless technology. That version comes with a 312MHz PXA270 processor, 32M bytes of SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM) and 32M bytes of Intel's StrataFlash ROM.

A unit with 802.11b, Bluetooth, the 312MHz PXA270 processor, 64M bytes of SDRAM and 64M bytes of ROM costs $249 after an instant $30 rebate. The same unit with the 624MHz processor costs $349.

The configurations with the 312MHz processor are available immediately. The configuration with the 624MHz processor can be ordered on Tuesday, but won't ship for ten days, Nix said.

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