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Personal Data Assistants
Many choices for the first time buyer

John Woody is a net working communications consultant specializing in small office, home office networks, training setup, and internet connectivity.

Michael Espinoza is owner of Technology Coaching, a training and consulting firm that specializes in the PDA market. He co-chairs the PDA SIG with John Woody.

The handheld computer market is growing at a fast pace with many choices for the 1st time purchaser or the for those individuals who wish to upgrade an old handheld. The current offering from Palm is Zire it does not necessarily bring anything new to the internal Palm software but it does bring a new street price of $99. This is the first time Palm has entered the market with a new device in that price range. They have released products that end up in this price range after some time on the market; this shows how the handheld market is changing and becoming more competitive.  The Zire is going to be a mainstream marketed product. What I mean by that is it will be sold all over in, Kmart’s, Wal-Mart’s, Targets…. It is for those individuals who’s focus is on the two main uses of a Palm, scheduling and phone numbers. It has two buttons in the front of the unit as opposed to the four buttons that previous units have had; hence the focus on the two most popular applications, the calendar and contacts. Here are the specs Palm highlights on its web site:
  • Size/Weight 
    4.4 x 2.9 x 0.6 in. / 3.8 oz.Zire
  • HotSync Cable 
    Standard Mini USB Connector/HotSync Cable 
  • Screen 
    Monochrome Display, 160x160 Pixel Display.
  • Processor 
    Motorola Dragonball EZ 16MHz Processor
  • Power Adapter 
    120VAC, 60Hz.
  • Included Applications 
    Address Book, Date Book, Clock, To Do List, Memo Pad, Expense, Note Pad and Calculator. Bonus game software included; Mine Hunt, Puzzle, Giraffe, and Hardball.
  • Synchronization with Desktop 
    Ships with Palm Desktop software for Windows and Mac. Also, PocketMirror by Chapura, which synchronizes with Microsoft Outlook (Windows only).
  • Operating System 
    Palm OS Software v4.1  and  2MB of memory 
  • Power 
    Rechargeable lithium ion battery.

CLIÉSony continues its introductions of Palm OS based handheld. Two of the latest Sony handhelds, PEG-SL10 and the PEG-SJ20 takes entry-level units to a new level of features. Sony continues to one-up Palm in its units with more memory and a better screen resolution. Here is a short summary of the specs Sony highlights of the two units:
  • Palm OS  software v. 4.11 
  • High-resolution monochrome display (320 x 320) pixels 
  • 8 MB internal memory (7 MB available) 
  • View and edit Microsoft Word and Excel files2 
  • Memory Stick media expansion slot 
  • Jog Dial navigator 
  • Portable USB HotSync cable supplied 
  • Enhanced backlight
  • Palm OS  software v. 4.11 
  • High-resolution monochrome display (320 x 320) pixels 
  • 16 MB internal memory (15 MB available) 
  • View and edit Microsoft Word and Excel files 
  • Memory Stick media expansion slot 
  • Jog Dial navigator 
  • Lithium-ion rechargeable battery (internal) 
  • Enhanced backlight 

Handspring Treo 90
HandspringThe latest from Handspring Treo 90, takes a different twist in not using graffiti and using a keyboard instead. It is a departure from the norm and only time will tell if the built in keyboard become the standard. These are the specs that Handsprings highlights:

  •  Processor  Technology   33 MHz Dragonball VZ 
  • 16 MB  Memory   
  • Built-in QWERTY keyboard 
  • SD/MMC Cards (including SD I/O)  Expansion
  • Rechargeable Lithium ion - Battery   
  • Palm OS Version   Palm OS 4.1
  • Size   4.2 x 2.8 x .65 inches
  • 4 oz. Weight   
  • Transflective backlight color STN display   
  • Extra software Included
  • Software   Blazer browser
  • One-Touch Mail
  • Palm SMS Application
  • WordSmith

Palm OS devices are not the only new handhelds on the market. The Pocket PC has also had some new entries that should be noted.

The first of these is the Viewsonic Pocket PC V35 which should have a street price in the $299 range. This is great for consumers because the average price of pocket PC units seems to be coming down substantially.. The following are the specs on Viewsonic’s Web site:

Viewsonic Pocket PC V35 

  • Processor 
    Powerful Intel X Scale processor 
  • Operating System 
    Microsoft Pocket PC 2002 Premium Edition 
  • Memory 
    32MB ROM and 64MB SDRAM 
  • Size and Weight 
    Ultra thin and only 4.2 ounces 
  • Battery 
    Long-life lithium-ion battery lasts up to 10 hours. 
  • Display 
    3.5  full-color transflective display 
  • Display Resolution 
  • E-mail 
    Microsoft Pocket Outlook provides full support for POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail including HTML messages, meeting requests, Word, PowerPoint and Excel attachments, plus voice messages. 
  • Synchronization Cradle 
    Quickly and easily sync documents and charge the battery with the included hot synchronization cradle. 
  • Infrared Port 
    Support for beaming contacts, schedules, or any file including images, music files or documents. 
  • Secure Digital Extension Card Slot 
    Store additional files and information with optional Secure Digital memory cards. 
  • Handwriting Recognition 
    Easily input information with Transcriber, a natural handwriting recognition application. Letter and block printing recognizer for inputting characters naturally. 
  • Synchronization 
    For your convenience, the Pocket PC V35 supports both continuous or on-demand synchronization. 
  • Multimedia Functionality
    Watch MPEG videos and listen to MP3 files with the Pocket PC V35. Even play music in the background while working within other applications. 
  • Applications 
    • Preloaded 
      Preloaded software includes: Microsoft Pocket Outlook 2000 (e-mail, calendar, contact, notes, tasks); Microsoft Pocket Word; Microsoft Pocket Excel; Microsoft Reader; Microsoft Windows Media Player v8.0; Microsoft Pocket Internet Explorer; Microsoft ActiveSync; AvantGo Sync Provider; Voice Recorder; Calculator and Solitaire. 
    • Applications 
      Included on CD-ROM Companion software for your PC is also included: Microsoft Outlook 2000; Microsoft ActiveSync; ClearVue Image; ClearVue Presentation.  

Toshiba GENIO e550G
Another unit worth looking at and has not been out very long is the Toshiba GENIO e550G. The most unique aspect of this unit is its larger than normal screen. It’s screen is 4” and it makes a difference. Here are the Specs on the unit:

  • Processor: 
    Intel XScale 400MHz 
  • Operating System: 
    Microsoft Pocket PC 2002 
  • Input Method: 
    Stylus Touchscreen 
  • Installed Memory: 64 MB 
  • Installed ROM: 32 MB 
  • Display Resolution: 240 x 320 
  • Backlit Display: Yes 
  • Color Depth: 65,536 Colors (16-bit) 
  • Connectors: 
    (1) Serial - Infrared (IrDA-SIR)
  • Audio 
    Headphone Out (1/8" Mini)
  • USB 
    Universal Serial Bus "A" 
  • Slots: 
    (1) CompactFlash Card
  • MultiMedia Card (MMC)
  • Secure Digital (SD) 
  • Power Options: 
    Rechargeable Battery 
  • Included Software: 
    Pocket versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, Internet Explorer and the Windows Media Player Calculator, MSN Messenger and Solitaire Companion CD: Microsoft ActiveSync 3.5, Outlook 2000, User Guide, Adobe Acrobat Viewer, Pocket TV, Weblinks for Microsoft Money, Pocket Streets, and Games 
  • Size and Weight
    • Height: 0.626 in 
    • Width: 3.01 in 
    • Depth: 4.92 in 
    • Weight: 6 oz 

Fujitsu Loox 600
There have been a lot of reports of other new Pocket PCs that will probably not hit the market until after you read this column. These include handhelds from Dell, HP and Fujitsu. To summarize what is expected from this ($500 est.) Fujitsu device:
  • Weight - 6.2-ounces 
  • Processor - 400MHz Intel XScale processor
  • Display - 3.5-inch, 240x320, reflective LCD
  • Memory - 64MB of RAM; and both SD and CompactFlash card slots.

The details on the Dell are sketchier but this is what is expected based on information that has been flying around the Web, so nothing is confirmed.  They are:

  • Model: Clemente Pocket PC 
  • Estimated Price:  $300. 
  • Operating System: Pocket PC 2002 
  • Dimensions: 4.10" x 3.5" x .7" 
  • Weight: 6.5 Ounces 
  • Telecom: None 
  • RAM: 64MB on board RAM 
  • Expansion Slot: CF and SD slots 
  • Battery Type: Lithium Ion battery 
  • Audio Out: MP3 player, speaker and stereo jack outputs 
  • Input Device: Jog dial, buttons, touchscreen 
  • Keyboard: Onscreen 
  • Resolution: 240 x 320 pixels  
  • Other Hardware: USB Cradle

HP has also announced that it will release two new devices before the end of the year.  According to FCC documents, HP's new iPaq will have the following:
  • Intel's 400MHz XScale 
  • at least 64MB of memory
  • TFT screen with a 240-by-320-pixel resolution display.
The device will act as a remote control for televisions, VCRs and other devices. The iPaq that won regulatory approval this week is part of HP's new 5400 series, and one of two iPaq handhelds HP plans to introduce. HP is also planning a low-end device that is thinner and smaller than previous iPaq handhelds. 

These are details from the FCC documents and HP representative have confirmed a device with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi will be available for the holidays, but would not say anymore.

This column has focused on new and upcoming Palm OS and Pocket PC devices. Another category of handheld device is starting to hit the market: Smart Phones. These Smart phones are using the Palm OS and the Pocket PC OS. There are a few smart phones that do not use either OS but in future columns I will concentrate on the units with these two operating systems. For those of you who have held off on getting a handheld computer because you don’t want to carry around another device, the Smart Phone could be the answer to your problem. I will write more about these Smart Phones in the future, however if you are currently in the market to purchase a handheld computer just remember there are many devices to choose from. So do a little research to find the right device for all your needs.

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