HP, Gateway announce PDAs for new Windows OS

Gateway Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) announced new handheld devices Monday along with the launch of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Mobile Software 2003, an update of the Pocket PC operating system.

As expected, the announcement marks Gateway's entrance into the handheld market, but Gateway's PDA (personal digital assistant) won't ship until July, the company said Monday. Meanwhile, HP announced several new iPaq models that feature integrated Bluetooth wireless technology and SDIO (secure digital I/O) expansion slots. Other vendors are expected to refresh handhelds with Microsoft's new operating system.

Gateway's handheld will feature a 400MHz XScale processor from Intel Corp. and a 3.5-inch screen, and the Poway, California, company expects to sell the device for between US$300 and $350, said Mike Stinson, vice president and general manager of mobile products, in an interview last week. The company will release all of the PDA's specifications when it ships, it said in a release Monday.

All the HP handhelds share integrated Bluetooth technology for short-range wireless connectivity, and all come with printing software that allows users to print documents on Bluetooth or infrared printers, said Cindy Box, director of marketing for handhelds at HP. "With our new launch on Monday, we've got the broadest range of handheld products than ever before," she said.

The range of HP's handheld products is the most impressive part of Monday's announcement, since the new devices themselves are largely incremental upgrades over previous iPaqs, said Todd Kort, an analyst with Gartner Inc. in San Jose, California. But there are important new features to note, such as the use of Bluetooth, SDIO, and transflective displays across all of the new models, he said.

HP's new h1940 is the same size and weight as the older h1910 PDA, but HP switched to a 266MHz processor from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. for the new handheld, Box said. The h1910 currently uses a 200MHz XScale processor. The Samsung chip offers performance in between that of a 300MHz XScale and a 400MHz XScale processor, but provides a better value than the 400MHz chip, she said.

Samsung's processor integrates the graphics controller and memory management functions directly onto the chip, which cuts down on the number of components needed on the PDA's motherboard, Box said.

The h1940 comes with a 3.5-inch screen and 64M bytes of SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM). The device measures 4.46 inches high by 2.75 inches wide by .5 inches thick (11.3cm by 7.0cm by 1.3cm), and weighs 4.37 ounces (124 grams).

It will cost $299 in the U.S., but a lower-priced version called the h1930 will be available outside the U.S. as of Monday and in the U.S. in the third quarter, Box said. The h1930 will come without integrated Bluetooth and with a 203MHz Samsung processor, she said.

The h2210 is almost the same size as the h1940, but is slightly larger to accommodate a second expansion slot based on the Compact Flash standard. Many customers need two expansion slots to use devices such as Wi-Fi cards and digital cameras, or to use extra memory, Box said.

HP's h2210 will cost $399 with a 400MHz XScale processor, 64M bytes of SDRAM, and software that allows the device to be used as a universal remote control for televisions or stereos, Box said.

The high-end models, the h5150 and h5550, are based on the original iPaq design, Box said. Customers of older iPaqs will be able to use their expansion cards in these models, which is especially important to certain customers like health-care organizations that have developed customized expansion cards for their specific needs, she said.

Both of these PDAs will come with a 400MHz XScale processor and a 3.8-inch display. The 5150 will use 32M bytes of flash memory and 64M bytes of SDRAM for a price of $549. For $649, the h5550 adds an integrated 802.11b wireless chip, a total of 48M bytes of flash memory and 128M bytes of SDRAM, and a biometric fingerprint reader for extra security.

HP will release the PDAs through its Web site and its reseller network, Box said. The company plans to release a slightly different version of each of the five handhelds for consumers through retail stores, she said. Those PDAs will be identical to the models described above, except they will come with a different set of software applications that are more suitable for consumers. The retail models will be known as the h1935, h1945, h2215, h5155, and h5555, and cost the same as the business PDAs, she said.

All of the handhelds will be generally available worldwide over the next two weeks, except for the h1930, which won't be available in the U.S. until later, and the h5150, which HP plans to market more exclusively to businesses in certain parts of the world, Box said.

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