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HP to release two new iPaqs

The computing giant is set to announce new handhelds that address its traditional corporate audience as well as the midrange market.

Hewlett Packard plans to release two new iPaq handhelds for the holidays, including its slimmest model yet and a high-end model with built-in wireless networking.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company will use the low-end model to go after the $200 to $400 midrange market, which accounts for half of all handheld shipments, according to Cindy Box, a marketing director for handhelds at HP. Like its predecessors, the device has four buttons, a brushed-metal case and a color screen. However, the new device is far thinner and smaller, and also includes a Secure Digital expansion slot. In an interview, Box briefly demonstrated the device. However she declined to provide specifications and pricing for the new models.

HP is also aiming at corporate users with the high-end device, which includes built-in 802.11b wireless and Bluetooth capabilities along with a built-in fingerprint reader that can be used to give a device owner exclusive access to the machine. The high-end unit will be priced in the $400 to $650 range, a niche that Box said accounts for a third of all handheld shipments.

Future versions of the high-end unit will include the built-in ability to connect with cellular networks, starting with the GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) network.

"We're broadening our market reach and will address a range of price bands?we want to continue to innovate as we have in the past," said Box.

On Monday, display company ViewSonic announced its first Pocket PC 2002-based handheld, which will be available Nov. 1, priced at $299. The midrange market is one Microsoft and its Pocket PC 2002 OS hardware partners will pursue aggressively in hopes of growing the market and their share of it.

"As our market base grows, we have to move into different price bands to grow the market and offer a complete portfolio of products to customers," said Ed Suwanjindar, a spokesman for Microsoft. "Attacking the low- and midrange tiers is absolutely a priority for us."

Suwanjindar added that with its 29 licensees, Microsoft will seek to address all market niches with several different partners in each.

In addition, Dell Computer has announced its intention of selling a handheld and is said to be targeting the low-end of the device market. Palm is also moving to address lower segments of the market with a $99 device, expected to debut Oct. 7.

"With more price points, more people are likely to use Pocket PC devices, which will help to grow the market," said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with research firm Jupiter Research. "Pocket PC (devices) have not really been able to play in the midrange in the past, so this should help them to compete better."

Gartenberg added that as more niches appear, the high-end is not likely to be affected dramatically. The situation will instead gives manufacturers the option to build more high-end features into devices, such as fingerprint and other biometric readers.

"Security on handhelds is a particularly big issue, as is getting people to use the security features," said Gartenberg. The easier security features are to put to work, the more likely business workers are to protect their devices with them, Gartenberg added.