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Vendors Jump On Pocket PC 2002 Bandwagon

Prompted by the success of the Compaq iPAQ, many companies last week joined the Pocket PC camp.

Many of these companies are offering full-featured PDAs with reflective color screens and differentiated feature sets, though it remains to be seen if the market can absorb so many newcomers.

Audiovox and Samsung will highlight wireless connectivity, with the former offering a new PDA as a bundle with its CDM-9100 mobile phone, to be sold mainly through wireless carriers.

Samsung announced it will offer a Pocket PC-based device with a built-in wireless phone next year, according to Reuters. For its part, Toshiba is offering a PDA with a CF and SD slot called the Genio.

Analyst Alex Slawsby for International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass., likened the influx of new Pocket PC contenders to “Moths to a flame.” He said, “People have seen the success of iPAQ’s shipments and Pocket PC has gotten a lot of media coverage and everyone is saying, ‘hey, we have to be there.’ So about a dozen vendors announced product.”

Slawsby said the introductions, which coincide with a launch event for Microsoft’s Pocket PC 2002 here, serve to bolster the Pocket PCs current momentum over the Palm OS. “It’s a positive for the Pocket PC [category] because there’s more options out there. Palm needs to respond. They either have to focus on the enterprise and deliver, or let the high end go to the Pocket PC and take everything below that.”

Others questioned whether the market can absorb so many new models, particularly at the high end, at a time when corporate sales are stalled in an uncertain economy.

“The bulk of the business is in the $100 to $300 range, and Microsoft and their partners don’t necessarily play there. Palm has six or seven units; Sony has several; Handspring has a handful. So there are over a dozen units on the Palm side and there’s all the old Pocket PCs. So the question is, how is the customer going to decide?” asked consultant Larry Reich of Digital Age Communications, Westfield, N.J.

Many companies were expected to announce Pocket PC 2002 models at a Microsoft press event that was scheduled for late last week, including current vendors Compaq, Casio and Hewlett Packard.

Early reports on the new Pocket PCs are as follows:

Audiovox is entering the Pocket PC market with the Maestro — a 32MB model that is designed to work with the Audiovox CDM-9100 wireless phone for Internet access. The Maestro has a Strong ARM 206 MHz processor, built-in Compact Flash (CF) and SD card slots and reflective type color TFT screen. Audiovox is offering the product as a bundle-only initially along with its trimode CDM-9100 phone bundle. The Maestro interfaces with the phone via a simple cable connection. It will be sold through Verizon and possibly other cellular carriers, and through select stores, such as Radio Shack, The Wiz and PC Richards & Sons. Suggested retail price for the Maestro and CDM-9100 package is $649, although carriers may offer subsidized pricing.

Casio is launching one of the more versatile Pocket PC 2002 models, called the Cassiopeia E-200. It allows simultaneous use of a CF, MMC/CF slot and PC card with an optional adapter, and allows USB connectivity to a full sized PC keyboard, printer or digital camera. It will be Bluetooth and 802.11b enabled. The unit is Casio’s first to offer a reflective 65,000-color screen, similar to the iPAQ’s. It is expected to ship in November at a retail price of $599.

Hewlett-Packard is offering new accessories for its Pocket PC 2002 models Jornada 565 and 568, which were announced in September. These include a PC card and MMC/SD adapter that connects to the built-in Type 1 CF card extended slot at a suggested price of $149.

For more on other Pocket PC introductions, check