Toshiba unveils Windows-based PDA

Toshiba Corp. entered the competitive market for PDAs (personal digital assistants) on Monday, unveiling a Pocket PC device that will go on sale in Japan on Aug. 20 and is expected to hit U.S. shores by the end of the year.

The Genio e550, unveiled Monday at Tokyo's Wireless Japan 2001 Expo, uses Microsoft Corp.'s Windows CE operating system and comes with both Compact Flash and Secure Digital expansion slots. This will allow users to use one slot for additional memory and the other for a wireless connection, said Ed Suwanjundar, product manager with Microsoft's Mobility Group.

The device includes a 3.5-inch (8.9 centimeter), 64,000 color TFT (thin-film transistor) display, 32M bytes of memory and support for both MP3 audio and MPEG4 video. It offers up to eight hours of battery life and weighs less than half a pound (180 grams), Microsoft said. Pricing for the product was not disclosed.

"It uses a reflective-matrix display; it looks very similar to the iPaq display," Suwanjundar said. The iPaq is Compaq Computer Corp.'s Pocket PC device.

The Genio uses Intel Corp.'s 206MHz StrongArm processor, the chip used in the iPaq and Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Jornada Pocket PC. Sharp Corp.'s upcoming Linux-based PDA and ViewSonic Corp.'s recently announced ViewPad 100 also use the 206MHz StrongArm.

Toshiba's entry will bring the number of companies using Microsoft's operating system for handheld computers to 14, Suwanjundar said. Many of those devices are available only in Europe because they use the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) standard, which is prevalent there, he added.

Toshiba will compete with PDAs from the likes of Compaq, Casio Computer Co. Ltd. and HP, all of which offer handhelds based on Microsoft's software, and from Palm Inc., Handspring Inc. and Sony Corp., which have systems based on Palm's operating system.

At least one vendor is retreating from the market, however. Psion PLC announced this week that it will move away from the handheld computer market, which is described as "completely saturated," meaning too many vendors are battling for users. At the end of September, Toshiba is also set for the Japanese launch of the e550/MD, which will feature a built-in Microdrive from IBM Corp. that stores a whopping 1G byte of data.

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