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Dell adds slimmer models to handheld line

The company announces two new slim handhelds: one that can connect to Wi-Fi networks, another that aims for customers on a budget.

Dell on Wednesday introduced two new slim handhelds: one that can connect to Wi-Fi networks and another geared toward customers on a budget.

As expected, the Round Rock, Texas-based company talked up its Axim X3 line. The two gadgets in the X3 family--the X3 itself, and the X3i--use the same slim case and Microsoft's Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC operating system along with Pocket versions of Outlook, Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, MSN Messenger and Media Player.

The $379 Axim X3i will come with a 400MHz Intel XScale processor for handhelds, 64MB of memory, an 802.11b chip for wirelessly connecting to networks, a 3.5-inch color screen with a resolution of 320 pixels by 240 pixels and a Secure Digital expansion slot. Excluding the wireless connectivity, the device costs $329.

The $229 Axim X3 comes with a 300MHz Intel XScale processor for handhelds, 32MB of memory and a USB cable for connecting with a PC, instead of a cradle like the Axim X3i.

During a conference call, Dell representatives stressed the significance of wireless in the company's overall product strategy, emphasizing that Dell is looking into numerous technologies as it tries to take advantage of the developing market. As wireless standards become more widely used and prices for components come down, analysts have said the opportunity for wireless to become more of a useful and practical feature for businesses is growing.

Dell is exploring converged devices that use both short-range wireless networking and wide-area cellular technologies, according to Tim Mattox, vice president of client product marketing at Dell. Mattox added that Dell would eventually integrate Bluetooth into its handhelds but didn't do it with the current Axim X3 devices because Bluetooth is not as popular in the United States as it is in Europe, and the company didn't want to increase the cost of the device.

Dell first announced the Axim X3 line in late September when it confirmed its entry into the consumer-electronics market, but it would not give information about pricing or features. Some details were revealed in early October when the Federal Communications Commission granted Dell supplier Wistron approval for a wireless handheld labeled the Axim X3.

Dell will continue to offer the Axim X5 line, which it debuted in November of last year.

The Axim X3i is likely to be the first of several Dell Axims with built-in wireless capabilities. While Dell still places much of its focus on other products, such as servers and storage systems, its executives have repeatedly touted the Axim's gains in the market. Dell had nearly 7 percent of the handheld market in the second quarter, making it the fourth-largest handheld seller, after Palm, Hewlett-Packard and Sony, market researcher IDC said.