3Com, which picked up the handheld devices with its $6.6 billion acquisition of U.S. Robotics earlier this year, says the PalmPilots are some of its best-selling products. Its success with the small machines is reflected in the market at large: Worldwide sales of handhelds are expected to increase 77.1 percent to 5.5 million units this year, according to an International Data Corporation forecast.
3Com reduced the price of the Professional Edition to $369 from $399, and the Personal Edition to $249 from $299. Windows CE-based handhelds, by comparison, generally range in price between $500 and $700.
Handheld devices can be roughly categorized into three groups. On the high-end are PC companions, including Microsoft Windows CE-based devices, which feature the clam-shell design and provide many standard computer functions such as word processing and Internet connectivity. Personal digital assistants (PDAs) are similar to the PC companions and tend to be pen-based, often utilizing handwriting recognition technology. Personal companions, of which PalmPilot is an example, are smaller devices that manage contact information and in some cases email access.
3Com's Professional Edition, designed for the corporate users, has 1MB of memory (twice that of the Personal Edition) and email access. Both products have backlit screens, data linking between applications, and expense management software.
IBM recently acquired licensing rights to the PalmPilot design and will market the device as the WorkPad.