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Intel tells Rex to play dead

After months of evaluating whether to continue the credit card-size handheld organizer, Intel has decided the product does not fit with its plans, CNET has learned.

Intel has decided to put Rex to sleep.

After several months of evaluating whether to continue the credit card-size handheld organizer, Intel decided the product did not fit with its plans, CNET has learned. Intel acquired Rex as part of its acquisition of Xircom, which was completed in March.

Intel now plans to focus the former Xircom unit on making networking accessories for desktop PCs, laptops and other handhelds, including Palm's products, Intel spokesman Scott McLaughlin said Tuesday.

As part of the move, Intel also plans at the end of the month to discontinue the service that kicked off last year in conjunction with the launch of the Rex 6000.

The decision marks the end of a long journey for the Rex, which made a splashy debut at the 1997 Comdex trade show but was met with slow sales.

Like other handheld organizers, the Rex stored phone numbers and calendar information and exchanged data with a desktop PC via a cable. However, it was far smaller than a typical handheld computer and could also share data with a laptop when inserted into a PC card slot.

Xircom bought the Rex line in 1999 from Franklin Electronic Publishers for $13.25 million.

Xircom sought to revive the Rex with the 6000 series, which added a touch screen and the ability to more easily share data with a PC. However, the revamped Rex landed in the doghouse shortly after its launch.

The company began filling orders for the Rex 6000 on Dec. 4 but then halted shipments 11 days later because of problems when the unit was placed in a laptop's PC card slot.

McLaughlin said the chip giant talked to a number of parties that it thought might have been interested in buying the technology but could not reach an acceptable deal. McLaughlin said all the employees involved with the Rex would be given other jobs within Intel.

Intel started notifying resellers Tuesday of its plans, McLaughlin said. Supplies of the unit are already thin because the company stopped producing the Rex while it mulled its fate. The Rex 6000 initially sold for $150 but had been selling for about $100 online more recently.

Customer support over the phone will be available for at least the rest of 2001, McLaughlin said, and Web support will continue through 2006. Intel will also honor any valid warranties.