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PalmPilot to get thinner, faster

The next generation of the handheld will offer improved handwriting recognition, a slimmer design, and a faster chip.

    The next generation of 3Com's PalmPilot will offer improved handwriting recognition, a slimmer design, and a faster processor, industry sources confirmed today.

    Details about the 1999 version of the popular handheld also started to emerge.

    The newest version, code-named Razor, is due out in November and will be substantially slimmer than existing PalmPilots at around 1/3-inch thick, with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Palm Computing will increase the memory capacity in the new version to 4MB with an extra 2MB of Flash ROM, allowing users to more easily upgrade their devices.

    The new PalmPilots will support new color LCD screens at the high end of the line, which is expected to go for just under $500. The existing PalmPilot Personal, Professional, and Palm III devices are subsequently expected to be discounted, with the Personal edition priced around $150, the sources confirmed.

    The Razor also will reportedly include online information from services such as Sabre travel information and ESPN sports news, but no Web browsing is expected to be available.

    Support for infrared communication between the PalmPilot and user's PC also will be expanded in the 1999 PalmPilot, although it is unclear at this point whether the cradle that currently connects the device to the PC during the "hot sync" mode will be done away with altogether in the 1998 or 1999 iteration.

    3Com, along with Intel, IBM, Ericcson, and Nokia, is part of the Bluetooth wireless technology initiative announced in May, which is expected to play a large part in the 1999 PalmPilot's wireless capabilities.

    The wireless communication protocol will allow the Pilot to communicate via cell phone to an expanded docking station, which can then connect to the user's PC.