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Casio, Philips handhelds get sound, color

Casio is adding video and MP3 features to the Cassiopeia while the Nino is getting a color screen.

Casio is releasing a new handheld later this month, adding video and MP3 capabilities to the Cassiopeia personal digital assistant line.

Philips also today announced a new Nino handheld with a color screen.

The Cassiopeia is one of the first handhelds to support full-motion video in such a small device along with MP3 audio. The device could also offer competition to Diamond's Rio MP3 player, by offering similar playback capabilities. The next-generation Casio E-500 is slated for release in Japan on March 26.

It comes on the heels of Casio's release of the E-100, which last month took aim at the PalmPilot-dominated market by adding a color screen.

The E-500 line will feature support for the popular MP3 audio download format--which allows the download of music from the Internet--and an optional video camera that mounts on a small slot on the front of the unit. The Cassiopeia comes standard with the Windows CE operating system, MP3 juke box software, and a Web browser, among other applications.

The handheld can be configured with a CD-ROM or a digital camera and is capable of full motion video playback.

The handheld will feature an active-matrix, 320-by-240 resolution LCD color screen and will be powered by an NEC 32-bit RISC processor running at 133 MHz based on a MIPS design.

It also is equipped with a rechargeable lithium ion battery which can run for up to six hours and comes with a 56K modem and 32 MB of memory. The new Casios are priced at $830 and $1,060 for the E-500 and E-507, respectively.

A Casio spokesperson was unable to say when the new line of PDAs would hit the U.S.

Philips rolls out new Nino
Meanwhile, Philips Electronics today introduced the Nino 500 series, its newest family of palm-size PCs. It uses the latest version of the Windows CE OS and has a 320-by-240 resolution backlit color screen, 16MB of memory, a MIPS-based RISC processor, a CompactFlash expansion slot (like the Casio E500), and it weighs under 8 ounces, including batteries.

The Nino 500 series runs up to 8 hours on a rechargeable battery pack and also supports standard alkaline batteries. The Nino 500 series comes standard with an AC adapter, rechargeable battery pack, and Nino dock. An optional add-on 19.2-kbps data/fax modem is available for $89.99.

Bundled software includes NinoVoice for voice command and control, AudiblePlayer, an Internet audio player from Audible, NinoImage for viewing images, and Web browsing software from AvantGo.

The Nino 500 series will be available in the U.S. at retail locations and through distribution partners in the second quarter of 1999 for a suggested price of $499.

Competition in the handheld market is particularly hot lately. Earlier this month, Compaq began shipping the Aero 2100, a Window CE-based device with a color screen. Last month, handheld market leader 3Com rolled out its much anticipated new PalmPilot versions, the Palm IIIx and the Palm V.

Some estimates peg Windows CE devices to make considerable gains over rival 3com and its Palm OS, eclipsing a large segment of the market within the next few years. Currently, Windows CE devices account for about 25 percent of all handheld sales, according to market research firm International Data Corporation.

Hewlett Packard today also said it planned to release another handheld PC. The company is set to unveil the Jornada 680, a slightly larger handheld, at the CeBit '99 show tomorrow in Hannover, Germany. The Jornada, which operates on Windows CE, offers a 6.5 inch color screen, a keyboard scaled down to 76 percent of the size of an average PC keyboard, and comes with a built in 56-kbps modem.