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Color handhelds come to the fore

Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, NEC each announce Windows CE-based handheld devices featuring larger screens with color displays.

LAS VEGAS--Three leading manufacturers unveiled "oversized," color-screen handheld PCs today at Comdex.

Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, and NEC each announced Windows CE-based handheld devices featuring larger screens with color displays. All three inch the category further upward toward the mini-notebook segment while giving the trio of manufacturers a presence in the fast-growing niche.

Featuring the clamshell design and providing such standard computer functions as word processing and Internet connectivity, handhelds based on the Windows CE operating system have been growing in size order to provide bigger keyboards, larger screens, and more processing power. In these respects they are coming to resemble mini-notebooks, with the exception of price. Windows CE handhelds are cheaper, costing between $500 to $1,000, as compared to the $2,000 price tag of the mini-notebook.

The handheld market is booming: Sales for the first half of the year nearly equaled the total sales figure for the whole of 1996, with Windows CE devices leading the way. The category also includes smaller pocket organizers.

Building on two handheld products unveiled earlier this fall, HP introduced the 620LX. The device includes a slot for a VGA-out card that provides for 800-by-600-pixel resolution and the ability to run applications like Microsoft's PowerPoint. The card must be purchased separately.

The 620LX also comes with 16MB of memory, needed to run the more-sophisticated applications like PowerPoint, and PC card slots for Internet or LAN connectivity.

Like the 360LX model, which is also a Windows 2.0 device, the 620LX will be compatible with forthcoming HP software that allows a handheld to be managed remotely.

The 620LX is due in the first quarter of 1998, and will retail for an estimated price of $1,000.

NEC unveiled the MobilePro 700, claiming it features the handheld's segment largest keyboard. Keys are 16.1 millimeter wide.

The color screen can be used as a touch-panel display with a stylus.

The MobilePro also has a VGA-out card option for PowerPoint and an integrated 33.6-kbps modem, and uses AA batteries.

The MobilePro will be available in December through NEC's NEC Now direct sales program, for an estimated $699.

As reported by CNET's NEWS.COM last Friday, Compaq unveiled a handheld that puts the Houston manufacturer back in the market's mainstream.

The C Series PC Companion offers a 640-by-240-pixel color screen and comes in a slightly larger form factor than the current PC Companion. The machine incorporates a 75-MHz microprocessor from MIPS. When released in the first quarter of 1998, it will become Compaq's first Windows CE 2.0 device.

As an additional feature, the new device will support Intelligent Manageability, the company's PC management software that comes with most of its desktops. Intelligent Manageability will allow users to synchronize the Series C with their regular computers.

The C series will come with a color or monochrome screen and be priced at $499 to $699.