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Handheld hits market via the Net

A British company jumped into the growing handheld PC market in an unusual way, announcing it will debut two models via direct sales on the Internet.

    A British company jumped into the growing handheld PC market in an unusual way, announcing it will debut two models via direct sales on the Internet.

    Geofox of Cambridge, England, announced the Geofox One and the Geofox One Professional, 14-ounce handheld machines running an 18.4-MHz ARM RISC processor and featuring a 6.8-inch screen with 640-by-320-pixel resolution. The Professional model also offers Internet connectivity using a 33.6-kbps PC card modem.

    Both models use Psion's EPOC32 operating system and include word processing and spreadsheet applications made by the same company. Compatibility with popular Microsoft applications is also provided via Psion software.

    Handheld devices can be roughly categorized into three groups. On the high-end is the emerging category of so-called mini-notebooks. These are really full-fledged PCs in a very small form-factor. They offer such features as greater processing power and hard drives for increased storage capabilities that are missing from handhelds. Mini-notebooks also weigh and cost more.

    The next group is PC companions, including Microsoft Windows CE-based devices, which feature the clamshell design and provide many standard computer functions such as word processing and Internet connectivity. The Geofox models fall into this category.

    The third group includes personal digital assistants (PDAs), which are similar to the PC companions and tend to be pen-based, often utilizing handwriting recognition technology. Personal companions, such as the well-known PalmPilot, are smaller devices that manage contact information and in some cases email access.

    The first products to be released by Geofox, the Geofox One and Geofox One Professional will be sold exclusively through the company's Web site. Shipping is set to begin in November, and orders received by October 31 will be discounted.

    Both the Geofox One and Geofox One Professional come with either 4MB or 16MB. A 4MB Geofox One costs $499 (399 pounds), while a 16MB Geofox One Professional costs $949 (675 pounds).