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HP tries out OmniGo in Europe, Asia

European and Asian customers are now getting an advance look at a new version of Hewlett-Packard's HP OmniGo handheld computer with a wireless connection to PC LANs.

European and Asian customers are now getting an advance look at a new version of Hewlett-Packard's HP OmniGo handheld computer with a wireless connection to PC LANs.

The HP OmniGo 700LX Communicator Plus includes the handheld computer's standard personal information management and communications capabilities, as well as cellular voice, fax, and data transmission capabilities. The OmniGo, which costs around $1,000, was jointly developed with Nokia Mobile Phones of Finland and weighs less than 14 ounces.

The system is being delivered for the time being only in Europe and Asia because it runs on a wireless standard called Global System for Mobile communications (GSM), the ubiquitous wireless digital telephony standard in those regions. But GSM hasn't caught on yet in the United States, although some carriers are working to establish the standard here as well.

HP is anxious to market the new OmniGo in the States but will wait until GSM has a more significant foothold, something that analysts expect to happen by 1997. "It's a year away," said Gerry Purdy, editor in chief of the Mobile Letter newsletter in Cupertino, California. "It takes a while for the infrastructure to be built up."

In addition to its GSM connection, it comes with an IrDA-compliant infrared port for talking to printers and other devices in the same way that remote controls talk to televisions. The handheld computer also comes with built-in PocketQuicken personal finance management software.