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V-Tech, Fuga Join Organizer Ranks

The already packed entry-level handheld organizer category will get a bit more crowded this summer when V-Tech and Fuga join the market.

Both companies will sell their organizers, at least initially, on the Internet. V-Tech, known for its electronic learning devices for children, will make the Helio available online by midsummer, while Fuga, a Palo Alto, Calif., start-up, has just begun selling the eDiary via its web site.

V-Tech will launch the Helio, a pen-based, PalmPilot-like device on August 9. Company executives reported that the decision to sell the Helio online was made to help keep down the product’s cost.

The Helio features 4MB of memory and 25-minute voice-record capability, as well as typical organizer functions including e-mail and personal information management. The unit will be available in various colors including bright blue, yellow, metallic pinkish-purple, and battleship gray.

In November, V-Tech will make available a keyboard and modem docking station at an estimated street price of $99.

Fuga’s plan is to make handheld computing as simple as using pen and paper, according to president Jay Goyal. The eDiary is a pen-based organizer that allows the user to access any function with just two touches of the stylus, the company claims.

“We’re going after a less sophisticated customer who is threatened by these devices and wants something a lot friendlier,” said Goyal. “To do that we’ve spent a lot of time making things simple.”

Entries are made with an onscreen keyboard, but Goyal said the need for “typing” is minimal due to a simplified user interface called VuOne, which allows all functions to be performed on the primary “home” screen.

The eDiary is similar to the popular PalmPilot in that it uses a Motorola Dragonball processor and stylus and performs PC synchronization via cable.

The eDiary tracks billing time, expenses and mileage, and performs automatic functions including rolling over unfinished to-do list items and allowing users to enter data once for repeating entries. The Fuga eDiary is sold at at an estimated street price of $149.

Goyal said he is talking with brick and mortar retailers and expects the eDiary to eventually sell through stores as well as the Internet.