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Dell to debut slender handheld

The Axim X3, which the company says will be thinner and lighter than its current device, will be released next week in two versions: one with and one without wireless capabilities.

Dell will unveil its latest handheld next week.

The Round Rock, Texas-based company will introduce its Axim X3 in a press conference scheduled for this coming Wednesday, it said in an e-mail Thursday.

The new handheld, which Dell has said will be thinner and lighter than its current device, the Axim X5, will be the first Dell handheld to come with wireless capabilities.

Documents the Federal Communications Commission issued this month suggest that Dell will market two versions of the Axim X3--one with wireless and one without.

Dell declined to comment for this story.

The more expensive of the two will likely cost about $325. It is expected to include a faster processor and 802.11 wireless connectivity. The Axim X3 without wireless connectivity is expected to cost about $200.

The new Axim is an important product for Dell. It represents the first update of its handheld line, which launched in November 2002, and 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, HP and Sony, market researcher IDC said.

Dell's wireless Axim X3 model in particular should challenge other handhelds on both size and price. The wireless model will likely undercut handhelds with built-in wireless from competitors such as HP and Toshiba. Toshiba's PocketPC e750, for example, lists for $450.

According to the FCC documents, Wistron is manufacturing the two Axim X3s for Dell. A filing from earlier this month indicates that both devices will use Microsoft's Pocket PC 2003 Premium operating system and come with a 3.5-inch color display with a resolution of 320 pixels by 240 pixels.

The devices will likely use the same case, which according to the filing measures 3 inches by 3.21 inches by 0.58 inches and will come with a stereo headphone jack and a Secure Digital expansion slot. FCC approval, given earlier this month, indicates that one device, likely the more expensive model, will use an Intel 400MHz XScale processor for handhelds and have 64MB of memory; and that the other will come with a 300MHz XScale processor with 32MB of memory.