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IBM to sell handheld computer

IBM will license the design for the PalmPilot handheld information manager from 3Com and market the device as the WorkPad.

    IBM is set to announce next week a new handheld device based on the PalmPilot technology.

    IBM will license the design for the PalmPilot handheld information manager from 3Com (COMS) and market the device as the WorkPad. Like the PalmPilot, the WorkPad will allow users to store, organize, and retrieve information while they are away from their desktop computers. IBM is expected to price the WorkPad comparably to the PalmPilot, which has an estimated street price of between $299 and $399, depending on how much memory the device has.

    "Basically, this gets the product into the corporate market. It's a pretty good move [because] 3Com now has inroads to corporate accounts" after enjoying success in the retail channel, says Diana Huang, analyst for International Data Corporation (IDC).

    Worldwide sales of "smart" handheld devices are expected to reach 6 million units in 1998, according to a recent forecast from IDC, but the WorkPad and PalmPilot will face increased competition down the road.

    Microsoft is developing a version of Windows CE that will work in so-called wallet PCs, similar in size and function to the PalmPilot, by early 1998, according to IDC. These devices are expected to have the functions of the traditional organizers but will include communications capabilities and possibly voice recognition capabilities as well.

    IBM and 3Com couldn't be reached for comment.