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New PDAs well in hand

A handful of hardware makers at Comdex unveil new handheld PCs that run on Microsoft's Windows CE operating system for prices starting below $500.

A handful of hardware makers today at Comdex unveiled new handheld PCs that run on Microsoft's Windows CE operating system for prices starting at under $500 apiece.

Devices from Casio Computer, Compaq Computer, Hitachi, and Philips Electronics are designed for business people on the road who are looking for a compatible lightweight counterpart to their desktop PCs.

The Windows 95-based machines offer remote and wireless connections for checking email as well as connecting to the Internet and corporate intranets. They also allow users to synchronize data with a range of Microsoft desktop applications, send and receive faxes, and perform other tasks.

Some of the pint-sized PCs have already begun to roll off assembly lines, while others will be launched into the market during the first quarter of next year. They come with a choice of 2MB or 4MB RAM and several are powered by ordinary AA batteries.

Now available is Compaq's PC Companion, a machine powered by two standard AA batteries. In addition to running handheld versions of Microsoft business applications, the computer can access legacy email such as Microsoft Mail and Lotus Development's cc:Mail engines. The PC Companion is priced between $499 and $699, the company said.

Casio Computer has also begun to ship the Cassiopeia handheld PC, a product that the company developed from its Digital Diary product line. The device runs on two AA batteries and includes video and sound connection software and a financial calculator. It costs under $500, the company said.

Meanwhile, Hitachi and Philips said today that they plan to ship devices in the first quarter. The Japanese hardware maker, through its Hitachi Home Electronics subsidiary, is working on an AA-powered device that will utilize the SuperH RISC architecture and SH-3 microprocessor, the company said.

Philips Mobile Computing Group, a division of Philips Electronics North America, has its own Velo 1 in the works. The company said the pocket PC will offers access to cc:Mail and Microsoft Mail access in addition to an array of Microsoft applications, and has a voice recorder and a rechargeable battery pack. Philips said it will price its product between $599 and $739 apiece.