Compaq's iPaq handheld goes gray

In an attempt to meet demand amid a shortage of color screens, Compaq launches a grayscale version of the iPaq Pocket PC.

In an attempt to meet demand for its iPaq handheld amid a shortage of color screens, Compaq Computer on Monday launched a grayscale version of the device.

The $349 iPaq Pocket PC H3150, available now, is powered by a 206MHz Intel StrongArm processor, has 16MB of RAM and can display 15 shades of gray.

Attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Compaq CEO Michael Capellas told Reuters that demand for the current iPaq has been 25 times greater than the supply. Capellas said his company has designed an alternative color display, which will soon be in production, as well as the grayscale version.

"Over the next two to three months, we will continue to face demand in excess of supply. You'll see us close the gap over the next four to five months," Capellas told Reuters.

Capellas also said the company plans to introduce a version of the handheld that has a built-in cell phone, similar to a model by Sagem announced last year and another from Mitsubishi announced earlier this month. Capellas did not give a time frame for the launch of its combination device, Reuters said.

The ability to use the iPaq as a cell phone will come first in the form of an add-on card that fits into the iPaq's expansion sleeve, said Cindy Box, marketing director for Compaq's wireless Internet unit. The add-on card will likely appear later this year from third-party manufacturers, she said.

Compaq may add cell phone capability to the unit itself--but only when it can add that function without changing the size of the handheld. Box said the company is committed to making all iPaqs the same size so that they will fit the current expansion sleeve for "a significant amount of time."

"We want to maintain that investment for both our customers and third-party developers," Box said. The iPaq is expandable using cards that fit into a sleeve that slides onto the iPaq handheld.

Last week, Compaq had a glitch with an upgrade for existing iPaqs that rendered some devices inoperable.

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