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HP to debut first new iPaqs since merger

The computing giant is set to announce the first newly developed handheld to use the device's name since the company completed its acquisition of Compaq and the iPaq line.

Hewlett-Packard is set to announce the first newly developed handheld devices to use the iPaq name since the company completed its acquisition of Compaq Computer and the iPaq line.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company will announce two new handhelds, the HP iPaq 3970 and the HP iPaq 3950, on Monday, sources said. Both gadgets will feature brighter screens and more powerful processors than Compaq's previous generations of iPaqs, as well as new universal remote-control technology. But the devices will have the same basic design as former iPaq models.

HP has been gradually phasing out some models in its Jornada line and has rebranded other Jornadas as HP iPaqs. The 3970 and the 3950, however, are the first new handhelds to use the HP iPaq name since Compaq and HP became one company.

Handheld makers have been trying to attract more customers by adding new features to their devices. Companies such as Palm and Handspring, which use Palm's operating system, have been adding wireless communications features. Microsoft and its hardware partners have been working on adding similar features to handhelds using Microsoft's Pocket PC 2002 operating system. With its new iPaqs, though, HP is focusing on improving specifications of previous generations of devices. The iPaqs run the Pocket PC 2002 OS.

HP representatives declined to comment for this story.

Battery life has been a key issue in previous generations of devices using Pocket PC 2002, according to Kevin Burden, an analyst with research firm IDC. The new iPaqs will use Intel's 400MHz XScale PXA250 processors, which should improve power management.

"Battery technology moves at a snail's pace, so better power management in devices is critical," Burden said. "Intel's XScale chip should help in that area because it can scale the use of power to the level of performance needed by the applications that are in use."

Intel spokesman Mark Miller said the XScale will also let hardware partners add more features, including wireless capabilities.

Toshiba announced on Monday its new handheld, the e740 Pocket PC, which uses Intel's XScale PXA250 processor and incorporates 802.11b wireless networking capabilities.

HP's new iPaq will include a more powerful consumer infrared port. The consumer IR port transmits remote signals farther than typical IR ports. IR ports are used in handhelds for beaming information, such as contacts, over a short distance.

The new HP iPaqs also feature remote-control software from Universal Electronics. Universal announced on Tuesday its Nevo software designed to turn handheld computers into remote controls. Sony Electronics is using remote control technology in its Palm OS-based Clie handheld line.

Both HP iPaq devices will also have "transflective" active-matrix screens to improve the brightness of their displays. The HP iPaq 3970 is expected to cost $100 more than the currently available $649 iPaq Pocket PC H3870, and like the 3870, the new gadget comes with the short-range wireless networking Bluetooth technology. The HP iPaq 3950 is expected to cost $649.

Both HP iPaq devices will have Secure Digital expansion slots, lithium-polymer batteries and 64MB of memory. The HP iPaq 3970 will come with 48MB of flash memory and the HP iPaq 3950 will come with 32MB of flash memory.