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NEC touts "companion PC"

NEC's MobilePro 750C is the latest of the so-called companion PCs that will challenge thin-and-light portables.

NEC announced its MobilePro 750C Handheld PC, its latest diminutive computing device, as the so-called companion PCs that will challenge thin-and-light portables continue coming to market.

With useable keyboard and color screens, devices in the companion NEC MobilePro 750C H/PC PC category generally resemble a scaled-down notebook computer more than a handheld personal assistant like 3Com's Palm Pilot. But the two-pound 750C H/PC runs Windows CE 2.0, Microsoft's operating system for the companion PC segment.

Based on an 80-MHz processor, the 750C PC may run faster than some 100-MHz portables, according to Duane Cowgill, product manager for handheld PCs at NEC Computer System Divisions, because the processor NEC uses offers much more cache memory than some 100-MHz chips. Certainly it will be quicker to run the stripped-down versions of Microsoft's office productivity applications than most handheld models.

Analysts like Dataquest's Mike McGuire also see merit in the fact that companion PCs run for up to eight hours on battery. Most notebook PCs top out around two or two-and-a-half hours.

NEC's new device weighs under two pounds and offers an eight-inch color display. The 750C H/PC also features a 33.6-kbps internal modem, a microphone, and dictation software. Crucially, it comes with automatic data synchronization between the portable and desktop systems.

NEC's companion PC features ParaGraph natural handwriting recognition software, which converts either cursive or print handwriting into text. Paragraph software recognizes both dictionary and non-dictionary words, as well as many symbols.

Separately, Sony will next week announce its Vaio 505G notebook, a full-blown Windows 95 portable that will weigh under three pounds and feature a 200-MHz Pentium MMX processor, a 2.1GB hard drive, and a 10.4-inch active-matrix LCD screen. It will ship in July for $1,999.

Targeted at mobile professionals as well as markets like government, education, and medicine, the 750C H/PC is available for $899 through retailers and NEC Now, NEC's direct purchase Web site.