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New PalmPilot device delayed

PalmPilot aficionados will have to wait longer for the arrival of the newest member of the highly popular family of handheld computers.

PalmPilot aficionados will have to wait a bit longer for the arrival of the newest, sleekest member of the highly popular family of handheld devices.

"Razor," the code name for 3Com's next-generation PalmPilot that will measure around one-third of an inch thick, has been delayed by the departures of several key executives to Handspring, a start-up that plans to come out with its own handhelds based around the Palm operating system, industry sources confirmed today.

Palm Computing, 3Com's PalmPilot division, was expected to release Razor-style handhelds later this month. But the introduction of the product has been pushed back due to the defections to Handspring of Donna Dubinsky, former general manager of Palm, Jeff Hawkins, former chief technology officer, and Ed Colligan, former vice president of marketing. Janice Roberts is acting president of Palm Computing.

"They have to take a step back with [Hawkins, Dubinsky, and Colligan] leaving, to not push products out the door," said Gerry Purdy, editor of industry newsletter Mobile Letter.

Razor, which initially was expected this month, will be announced at the Palm Computing Worldwide Developer's Conference in Santa Clara, California, on December 2, another source confirmed. The actual product is expected to hit stores in early 1999.

Palm Computing declined to comment.

The upcoming handheld device is expected to be significantly slimmer than current PalmPilots, with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, enhanced display, and increased memory capacity to 4 megabytes, with an extra 2 megabytes of ROM (read-only memory).

"There is no problem with the fundamentals of the product," one source said. "But they are dealing with the loss of some key players."

The three former Palm Computing executives left the company earlier this month to launch Handspring, which is backed by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Handspring is expected to develop a consumer handheld computer at a sub-$200 price point, Purdy said.

"Their plan is smart--if they can get the price point and functionality working well, it will be quite exciting to see their first unit," Purdy said.

"If 3Com is smart, they'll bring in a management team of more than one person...industry veterans who can take the business and go upscale, doing things in the wireless level, and not worry about [Handspring] going after the consumer market," he said.

However, Purdy added that the delay is not a huge cause for alarm. He noted that the Palm III, which was introduced earlier this year, is still selling well.

"There wasn't a need to follow up, when the demand for the last product has been very high," he said. PalmPilot holds more than 40 percent of the handheld market, according to a recent report from market research firm International Data Corporation.