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Compaq Moves Away From PC With Updated iPAQ ‘Net Lineup

New York — Compaq has expanded its iPAQ product family into the Internet device arena and is considering pushing the line further away from its computer heritage and into the digital video and audio categories.

All of the iPAQ products are application-specific and intended to work in conjunction with a PC, said Mike Larson, senior VP/ group general manager for Compaq’s Consumer Product Division at a press conference, here, last week. The iPAQ products are part of Compaq’s effort to expand its assortment into non-traditional categories, he said.

The new additions to the iPAQ line include the iPAQ PA-1 portable MP3 audio player, a home Internet appliance, the iPAQ Connection Point, and the BlackBerry wireless e-mail solution devices. Compaq executives also reported that availability of the iPAQ Pocket PC, which started shipping in April, will continue to be limited until later this year.

“The iPAQs are simple, practical devices that complement the computer category,” Larson said.

Steve Baker, PC Data’s director of hardware analysis, agreed with Larson and called the Compaq move very sensible. “In stores,” he said, “Compaq now tends to be overwhelmed by Hewlett-Packard because HP has so many different products on the shelves. Until now Compaq has had no story to tell outside of the PC area.”

The iPAQ Home Internet Appliance will start shipping in the next two weeks with a $599 suggested retail price. It utilizes Microsoft’s MSN Companion software designed to deliver simple Internet access using the MSN Internet Service Provider, which is offering a $400 rebate if the buyer signs a three year contract with MSN.

The appliance is aimed to consumers who are unsure if they need a full-blown PC and to those who would rather operate a less complicated device. The end user cannot upgrade the appliance, although Microsoft will periodically conduct an automatic software update.

The iPAQ MP3 player, suggested retail price $249, uses the MP3, WMA and AAC and can be upgraded to handle new formats as they are introduced, Larson said.

The Connection Point is essentially a very flexible residential gateway that acts as a hub for a home network and as the network’s primary access point to a broadband Internet connection. The Connection Point can work with wireless, home telephone and Ethernet home networks, or a combination of any two.

Because broadband connectivity is always “on,” making a PC potentially vulnerable to a hacker attack, the Connection Point is equipped with firewall technology from Watchguard Live Security service.

Two BlackBerry wireless devices were unveiled. Both are intended for corporate users and offer wireless e-mail and paging services that can be accessed anywhere in the United States.

The BlackBerry W1000 is a pager-size model, suggested retail price $399 and now shipping, while the H1100, shipping in September with a $499 suggested retail price, is about the same size as a handheld PC. The service charge for both devices is $39.99 per month.

The iPAQ family already contained the iPAQ desktop PC, geared toward the corporate user, and the Pocket PC.

The iPAQ Pocket PC has proved to be the hottest handheld PC Compaq has introduced with sales expected to hit 1 million per year by 2001. This has led to massive shortages of the product at retail, Larson said. Compaq does not expect supply to catch up to demand until the fourth quarter at the earliest.