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Handhelds with wireless Web target blue-collar workers

Symbol Technologies unveils a new line of rugged handheld computers, including one for use in "extreme environments," for factory employees, soldiers and postal workers.

Symbol Technologies has unveiled a new line of rugged handheld computers for factory employees, soldiers and postal workers who need wireless Web access.

Unlike other handheld makers, Symbol doesn't target the consumer market. The company, which uses both the Microsoft Pocket PC and Palm operating systems, instead manufactures and sells specialized handheld computers for workers in such settings as warehouses, retail stores and hospitals.

The new products, announced yesterday, include the Symbol SPT 1700. The device is based on the Palm operating system, features a built-in scanner and uses a stylus for inputting data. The new Symbol PPT 2700 has Pocket PC software. It also uses a stylus for data input and includes an integrated bar-code scanner for industrial and delivery operations.

PDT7500 The Symbol PDT 7500, which is available in Windows CE and DOS versions, is designed for delivery workers who need to use the product in varying climates and "extreme environments," according to Symbol.

The handheld maker is somewhat unique in its use of rival operating systems. But there's a reason for the approach. Symbol's devices are targeted more toward allowing workers to access corporate information. And in this market, large organizations and companies tend to choose a specific operating system because it's compatible with their other business systems and computers. Thus, DOS is still available.

Symbol, which is based in Holtsville, N.Y., isn't doing all its work alone.

Earlier this year, Intel announced that it would invest $100 million in Symbol and work with the company to jointly build wireless networking products for businesses.

And in June, Motorola, Symbol Technologies and European database maker Connect Things announced plans to invest $500 million into a venture that will incorporate Symbol's bar-code technology in Net-ready devices, including mobile phones.