Amid sea of gizmos, HP, Dell duke it out

With their respective announcements at Comdex Fall 2002, the world's two biggest PC sellers set the stage for a holiday showdown in a whole new arena: the PDA market.

John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
John G. Spooner
4 min read

LAS VEGAS--With their respective announcements at Comdex Fall 2002 on Monday, the world's two biggest PC sellers have set the stage for a holiday showdown in a whole new arena: the PDA market.

As expected, both No. 1 Dell Computer and No. 2 Hewlett-Packard unveiled new PDAs based on Microsoft's Pocket PC software. The Dell announcement marks the Austin, Texas-based titan's official entry into the market for personal digital assistants.

The announcements are just two of many coming out of the gadget-crammed trade show, the current installment of which runs here till the end of the week.

Dell chose to use the gizmo fest to kick off its entry into the handheld arena. The company's new Pocket PC PDA, the Axim X5, focuses on delivering a lower price than competing devices. Dell launched two configurations of the gadget here, including a $199 model, with a 300MHz Intel XScale PXA250 processor, and a $299 model, with a 400MHz XScale chip. At $199, Dell's 300MHz Axim X5 offers features similar to those of other vendors' $299 devices. Both the quoted Dell prices figure in rebates.

HP introduced a new high-end HP iPaq Pocket PC h5450, with built-in Bluetooth and 802.11b capabilities. The company also showed off a lighter weight HP iPaq Pocket PC h1910.

The high-end device, which sells for $699, also includes a fingerprint sensor, a color screen, a 400MHz Intel XScale PXA250 processor and as much as 20MB of memory for storing data. The h1910, which sells for $299, comes with a 200MHz XScale chip.

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Comdex has long been known for its gadgets. Each year an innumerable number of exhibitors attend the show to debut all manner of new products, from more-or-less conventional offerings to crazy-quilt gizmos that borrow from many different product categories to gadgets that do their best to stretch the currently accepted laws of shape and size.

PCLaptops, based in Sandy, Utah, is going for the notebook speed record. It announced the whopping 9.6-pound E-Pro Max 585. The laptop follows a growing trend among manufacturers, who have started to shoehorn desktop Pentium 4 chips into their notebooks. So far, though, most vendors have used 2.4GHz or slower Pentium 4s, to help keep heat and power consumption to a minimum. PCLaptops has opted for a 2.8GHz P4 chip.

Building on the mobile theme, Socket Communications launched a new global positioning satellite receiver for Pocket PC handhelds and other PDAs that use Microsoft's Windows CE operating system. The receiver uses Bluetooth to broadcast GPS location signals, which can be picked up by the handheld from as far away as 30 feet. The receiver will be available around the world next month for $449, the company said in a statement.

On the storage front, Maxtor topped all previous hard drive offerings with a new 250GB drive. Currently the largest hard drive available for a desktop PC, the product is available via retail in a $399 upgrade kit, which includes installation instructions along with the necessary adaptor board and cables. The drive has enough capacity for about 62,500 four-minute MP3 files or about 250,000 digital photos, the company said in a statement. PC manufacturers like Dell and Gateway just recently began offering 200GB hard drives in their desktops.

Pretec Electronics set a record for storage devices using the Compact Flash format, introducing cards with capacities of 3, 2 and 1.5 gigabytes. Compact Flash cards are primarily used in digital cameras and other portable devices.

Fujitsu got in on the storage scene with a new, detachable 2.3GB drive, the DynaMo 2300U2. The device bests its 1.3GB predecessor in capacity and uses a Universal Serial Bus 2.0 interface, which lets it quickly write large amounts of data to its removable disks. Devices using the USB 2.0 specification can transfer data more quickly than those using the original USB 1.1 spec and are becoming more popular. The DynaMo 2300U2 will sell for $349, starting next month. Additional 2.3GB disks will sell for $20 each, Fujitsu said in a statement.

On the other end of the size spectrum, Lexar Media announced the new JumpDrive 2.0 Pro, a tiny 256MB flash memory-based storage device. Small enough to fit into a shirt pocket, the JumpDrive attaches to a PC via the Universal Serial Bus port. Using the USB 2.0 specification, it can download 200MB of data in about 50 seconds, Lexar said in a statement. The drive will sell for $199.

When it comes to unusual, convergence devices, Nokia is showing off its 3650, a phone with a built-in camera that can take digital photos and capture up to 15 seconds of video. It can also play music via a built-in audio player. The Finnish cell phone giant has marketed a similar camera/phone in Europe, but that model does not capture videos or contain as many features. The 3650, which works on GPRS networks, among others, will be available worldwide in the first quarter of next year, Nokia representatives said.

SonicBlue also showed off a new portable video player. The device, originally designed by Intel, is a little bit larger than a Palm PDA. It lets consumers capture TV programs or home videos and then watch them remotely. It will hit the market around the time of the Consumer Electronics Show in early January, an Intel representative said.

Finally, with the NFL's Super Bowl not far off, ViewSonic is getting ready. The computer monitor manufacturer is branching out into PDAs, tablet PCs and televisions. The company currently has a 17-inch LCD TV on the market for $999 and will bring out a 27-inch model around the middle of next year, company representatives said.