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A feast of handhelds, but who's biting?

Though the PDA market is sluggish, Dell and Sony Electronics are updating their product lines with new units that range from simple and sleek to advanced with wireless capabilities.

Dell and Sony Electronics are adding new features, from sleek designs to wireless connectivity, to upcoming handheld devices.

Sony announced on Wednesday two handheld devices, the $200 Clie PEG-TJ25 and the $250 Clie PEG-TJ35, which are less than half an inch thick and should be available this month.

The Federal Communications Commission has given an approval to Dell manufacturing partner Wistron NeWeb for devices labeled Dell Axim X3, the name Dell mentioned last week when it announced new handhelds as part of its home electronics products push. The FCC approval marks one of the final stages before a device is typically introduced. Dell said last week that the Axim X3 would be available later this year and would be thinner and lighter than its currently available Axim X5, but it gave no further details about the handheld.

Dell would not comment for this story.

Handheld market leader Palm also announced a trio of new devices Wednesday.

The new devices are scheduled to arrive during a slumping market for handhelds that doesn't look like it will get a holiday boost this year, according to analysts. Data from retail market tracker NPD Techworld indicates that back-to-school sales--traditionally a strong selling period for all computing peripherals--were down for handhelds this year. Device sales in August were down 30 percent from the same period a year ago, according to NPD Techworld analyst Stephen Baker.

"The reality right now is that it looks like it will be a tough holiday season for handhelds," Baker said. "Sales were not good during the back-to-school time."

The holidays are often the best sales period for manufacturers.

However, Sony's two additions may appeal to holiday shoppers looking for more reasonably priced devices than its high-end and advanced devices, such as the $600 Clie PEG-UX40 and the $700 Clie PEG-UX50.

The new devices use a 200MHz processor, version 5.2.1 of the Palm operating system, a Memory Stick Pro memory slot and a color screen with a resolution of 320 pixels by 320 pixels. The Clie PEG-TJ35 comes with a built-in digital audio player and 32MB of memory. The Clie PEG-TJ25 comes with 16MB of memory.

According to FCC documents, Wistron is manufacturing two devices for Dell, one with Wi-Fi connectivity and one without. Sources say the Axim X3 without Wi-Fi connectivity is expected to cost $199 and the X3 with Wi-Fi connectivity will cost $325.

The filing with the FCC indicates 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. The FCC approval, which came last week, also indicates that one device 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.

CNET's John Spooner contributed to this report.