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Toshiba handheld packs Wi-Fi

The company's new e740 Pocket PC incorporates 802.11b wireless capabilities, though at $599 it's at the high end of the consumer handheld market.

Toshiba is introducing a handheld with fewer strings attached.

The company's new e740 Pocket PC incorporates 802.11b wireless capabilities. The inclusion of 802.11b, a networking protocol often referred to as Wi-Fi, will allow the device to share files with a PC or a computer network, without requiring it to sit in a special cradle.

Wi-Fi has momentum behind it these days. About 15 million homes and offices are installing the networks, which create a 300-foot zone that lets people connect devices such as PCs and handhelds or share an Internet connection, even as they move from one room to another. Toshiba is not only selling gadgets equipped for those hookups; it's also promoting installation of the networks in public areas such as cafes and hotels.

The e740, which is on sale now on Toshiba's Web site, is aimed at consumers. The 6-ounce machine also sports Microsoft's Pocket PC 2002 software, along with a 400MHz Intel PXA250 XScale processor, 64MB of memory and a 3.5-inch color display.

The e740's $599 price tag is only $30 more than the introductory price of Toshiba's first Pocket PC, the e570, which the company launched last November. But it's on the high end of the scale for a Pocket PC or similar device, such as the Sony Clie.

Other handhelds with 802.11b, such as Intermec's 700, can cost as much as $2,000. However, these machines are usually designed for heavy-duty use by manufacturers or retailers.

The e740 also includes a Secure Digital slot, which can receive postage stamp-sized cards that store data or perform other tasks.

Toshiba on Monday introduced a new Bluetooth Secure Digital card for its Pocket PC devices. The $149 card allows the devices to use the Bluetooth wireless networking protocol, designed to replace cables, for transferring files over short distances to a PC, a printer or another handheld.

Toshiba did not give battery life estimates for the new handheld. But buyers will be able to turn off the wireless function of the device to increase the time it runs between charges.