Sharp's move is a somewhat belated entry into the growing Windows CE-based handheld market. Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, and Casio are currently major players in this market. Previously, Sharp has offered personal organizers based on a proprietary operating system.
Worldwide sales of "smart" handheld devices are expected to reach 6 million units in 1998, according to a recent forecast from International Data Corporation (IDC), and more and more manufacturers are seeking to tap this niche. Next week, IBM will announce a new handheld based on the PalmPilot technology licensed from 3Com.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is developing a version of Windows CE that will work in so-called wallet PCs (similar in size and function to the PalmPilot) by early 1998, according to IDC. These devices are expected to have the functions of the traditional organizers but will include communications capabilities and possibly voice recognition capabilities as well.
Sharp said its Windows CE handheld will be available by the end of the year.