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Handhelds all the rage at CeBit show

It may not be as glamorous as Comdex, but manufacturers are using the big European confab to show off the newest in handheld and wireless devices.

As technology trade shows go, Europe's CeBit may not be Comdex in terms of social events and weather, but attendees can comfort themselves by getting sneak peaks at some of the newest mobile and wireless devices.

Even if Hannover, Germany, isn't as exotic as Las Vegas, manufacturers have been assiduous this week in showing off the newest in handheld and wireless devices.

Philips today debuted its long awaited Nino 500, a $499 palm-size PC with 16MB of memory and a color display. Separately, Hewlett-Packard introduced the Journada 680, a handheld PC with a 6.5-inch color display and 8-hour battery for $899.

Compaq and Casio also showed off recently announced devices.

Meanwhile, Microsoft and its manufacturing partners expanded the range of devices based on the software company's Windows CE operating system for non-desktop PCs. Microsoft and its palm-size PCs compete against the established leader in the space, 3Com's PalmPilot.

As ever, personal electronics devices have dominated CeBit, although this year the presence of devices blending the computing, telecom, and Internet industries have been more evident than in the past. Cell phones with Internet connectivity have been a popular theme.

For example, 3Com this week announced a pact with French telecommunications company Alcatel to create devices that can act as both cell phones and mobile organizers. Sun Microsystems announced a similar deal with Symbian to create Internet-enabled cell phones running on Sun's Java operating system.

Ericsson also announced its R380, a cell phone based on the EPOC operating system and featuring a calendar, built-in modem, and graphic display.

Nokia announced several new products, including the Nokia 3210, a new mobile phone with image messaging and changeable covers. Nokia also introduced a car phone, the 6090, and what it calls a "media phone," the Nokia 7110, which features access to Internet content.

Additionally, Nokia, along with IBM and The Sabre Group, announced an alliance to bring real-time interactive airline and flight information to cell phone users. The pact is aimed at letting travelers make flight arrangements and receive updates via cell phone.

Motorola announced its v3688 phone, a small and light dual band cell phone, a new two-way pager supporting mobile email, and a "tri-band" cell phone which "allows users to use one handset across the Americas, Europe, and Asia, where roaming agreements allow," according to the company.

Microsoft yesterday announced it is developing a Web-enabled telephone, including smallish keyboard and display, capable of sending and receiving emails and Internet browsing.

CeBit takes over Hannover around this same time every year, even though the northern German locale is no garden spot. The weather recently hit a high of 7 degrees Fahrenheit while the humidity hovered around 50 percent. Unlike Las Vegas--with its thousands of hotel rooms and desert weather--Hannover puts many attendees up with local families once the hotel rooms are all booked up.

On the upside for the party crowd, there are fewer smoking regulations than even Las Vegas, and once the show is over for the day, many of the trade booths become impromptu hofbraus, serving beer and champagne, according to one attendee.