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Hitachi announces new handheld

The company offers a new portable computer for industrial markets that uses the Windows CE operating system amid growing competition in the field.

Hitachi announced it is offering a new portable computer for industrial markets that uses the Windows CE operating system amid growing competition between Microsoft and 3Com for a slice of the mobile device market.

Hitachi's new tablet-style "Handheld PC," which weighs under 30 ounces, is being targeted at industrial applications such as healthcare workers who need to update medical records in the field.

Microsoft's Windows CE operating system, in general, has found grudging acceptance in the handheld market against the popular Palm devices from 3Com's Palm Computing.

One area where Palm Computing may find slower growth is in the market for industrial devices such as the one Hitachi is targeting. Symbol Technologies, a large manufacturer of bar code handhelds, has licensed the Palm OS, but overall Microsoft has signed more manufacturers on to its efforts--including Symbol.

Analysts say that the Microsoft's Windows CE threat to Palm's dominance has not yet fully materialized, but is starting to make inroads by sheer dint of its numerous vendors. Niche markets such as healthcare often have a diverse set of requirements for devices so that no one manufacturer is financially able to develop for all needs. The advantage in signing more licensees is that more devices in a wider array of form factors, such as the Hitachi's tablet handheld, can be offered.

Executives with Palm Computing say they will step up licensing efforts in 1999, but most of their agreements are expected to come in the area of wireless communications. For instance, the company has already licensed its operating system to cellular equipment maker Qualcomm.

The company also recently acquired Smartcode Technologies, a developer of wireless data communications and Internet access software technology that is used by many cellular telecommunications companies.

The HPW-600ET comes with a 7.5-inch color dual-scan display, an Hitachi 128-MHz SH-4 processor, and a built-in modem. The device will be priced at $1,199 and is expected to be available in North America later in the second quarter of this year.