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Dell announces fix for handheld glitch

The Round Rock, Texas, company says it has a software update that improves the performance of Axim X5 models installed with Microsoft's Windows Mobile 2003 software for Pocket PC.

Dell has announced a fix for its underperforming Axim X5 handhelds.

The Round Rock, Texas, company said on Monday that it will offer a software update that improves the performance of Axim X5 models installed with Microsoft's Windows Mobile 2003 software for Pocket PC.

Dell expects to post the update, a whopping 28MB file that updates the Axim's read-only memory, on its Web site by Wednesday. The company will also contact customers with affected Axim X5 models to inform them of the update, a company representative said.

The Axim X5, which Dell introduced last November, is an important part of the company's attempt to appeal to businesses and consumers with products that go beyond its PC offerings. The company updated the handheld with the Windows Mobile 2003 software in late June in an effort to offer new features and improve performance. But the upgrade backfired by introducing a glitch that actually slowed down the handheld's performance.

Many new Dell Axim X5 owners discovered the issue in early July when their orders for the handhelds began arriving. Dell acknowledged the problem on July 16, saying the problem was related to software it created to work with the Microsoft operating system. Dell halted shipments of new Axim X5 handhelds on the same day.

Dell was unaware of the problem with the Axim X5 until complaints about its performance began popping up on Web sites, including forums on the company's own tech-support Web site.

The computer seller's fix will remedy the software glitch and boost performance of the Axim X5, the Dell representative said.

While it's difficult to gauge whether the problem will hurt Axim X5 sales in the long run, it's not expected to have a material impact on the company's earnings, which it will report in mid-August. Dell did delay shipments by nine days, but it continued to take orders for the device and collect payments during that time. Dell resumed shipments on July 25.

During its relatively short lifespan, the Axim has carved out a sizeable piece of the handheld market. Despite continued declines in the handheld market, Dell has risen to fourth place worldwide in handheld shipments. During the second quarter, Dell had 6.7 percent of the 2.27 million unit market, according to IDC.

Dell will make the Axim X5 update available via its tech-support Web site. Dell also has plans to offer the update on a CD-ROM that can be mailed to customers. While the update is expected to be downloadable by Wednesday, the CD will likely not be available that soon, the Dell representative said.

Dell is also planning to offer a software upgrade CD that will install Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC software on older Axim X5 units that came with Microsoft's earlier software, Pocket PC 2002. That upgrade, which was delayed by the performance glitch, will begin shipping to customers in about two weeks, the representative said.