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Dell finds Axim glitch

The PC maker says it has identified a software glitch inside its Axim handheld and will not ship new units until it corrects the problem.

Dell Computer said Wednesday that it has identified a software glitch inside its Axim handheld and will not ship new units until it corrects the problem.

The Round Rock, Texas, company said that Axim X5 models--its first and only handheld--that run Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC contain a software glitch that reduces their performance on many applications.

Dell recently began shipping Axim X5s with Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC. It added the software, which came out on June 23, to the Axim X5 leaving the handheld's basic hardware unchanged.

Since they began receiving Dell Axims with the 2003 software installed, a number of Dell customers have reported a noticeable lack of performance in the newer models versus older models with Microsoft's Pocket PC 2002 software.

Dell pledged to look into the issue earlier this week, but at the time it said it had not yet received any formal complaints. Since then, a company representative said Dell ran tests and discovered the performance issue with Axim X5s loaded with the 2003 software.

"We are aware there is a performance issue with the Axim running Pocket PC 2003," said Jess Blackburn, a Dell spokesman. "We are working to implement a solution for our customers."

Dell found a glitch inside software it created as part of the 2003 upgrade. The Dell software was designed to work with the Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC operating system. However, the glitch is not related to Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC software itself, Blackburn said.

Dell will most likely deal with the problem by offering an Axim software update. It can distribute the upgrade via its Web site and also put it on a CD-ROM that could be mailed to customers.

Blackburn said he could not offer an exact time frame for when the update will be released.

While it works on the fix, the company will continue to take Axim orders. However, it will not ship any new Axim units or offer a planned Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC software update for Axims currently running Pocket PC 2002 until the fix is available, Blackburn said.

Dell has had only about three full weeks of orders since adding the new software to the Axim, so the impact is fairly limited. But the Axim, which Dell launched last November, is still an important part of the company's efforts to appeal to businesses and consumers with products that are outside of its basic PC offerings.

So far, the Axim has been successful. Despite the slumping handheld market, Dell has been able to take significant market share, thanks in part to aggressive pricing and the exit of former No. 2 device maker Handspring from the market for PDAs (personal digital assistants). The manufacturer moved up to the No. 4 spot, with 6.5 percent, from No. 11 in worldwide market share for the first quarter of 2003, according to research firm IDC.

Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC is not considered a major revision to its predecessor. It does, however, include new features such as built-in support for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless technologies. A larger overhaul is scheduled for the next version, code-named Magneto, which is due out next year.

A number of other manufacturers, including Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba and ViewSonic, have announced new PDAs or plans to offer new models based on the Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC in the near future.