All-in-one phone, PC device takes on handhelds

It's a phone, it's a PC, it's a PDA (personal digital assistant), all rolled into one, with video, Bluetooth and mobile Internet capabilities sprinkled on top. This all-in-one gizmo is called the PC-EPhone and the startup company that lauded its myriad features at TECHXNY Tuesday hopes that it will be the hot product coming out of this year's show.

The convergence device, introduced by PC-EPhone, combines an Intel processor with Microsoft's Windows CE platform for PC capabilities but is most marked by its seemingly endless applications, such as SMS (short message system) one- and two-way pager capabilities, voice and handwriting recognition, Web browser, calendar and address book features as well as game and phone software.

The company said that it expects the device to hit the market in the fourth quarter, around the Christmas season, aimed mostly at corporate users. The price has not yet been set, given that the company is waiting to get quotes from prospective carrier partners Verizon Communications and Sprint, but the company said that it expects the PC-EPhone to come in under US$1,000.

"It sells itself on its own benefits and features," PC-EPhone Chief Executive Officer (CEO) David Meltzer said at the conference Wednesday.

But TECHXNY attendees, just coming off a morning keynote address by Palm CEO Carl Yankowski, wondered out loud if the newfangled device could gain a heavy presence in the crowded handheld market.

"How do you expect to compete against the Palms and Compaqs, who aren't doing so well this quarter themselves," one conference attendee queried Meltzer.

According to Meltzer, PC-EPhone will try to penetrate the market by concentrating on corporate users, specifically in field and sales divisions.

"The corporate market drives the consumer market," Meltzer said. "The consumer side is always a short-term play because there's always going to be another device coming out 3 to 6 months later," Meltzer added.

The company plans to market the PC-EPhone to Fortune 2000 companies, as well as to offer the device through more than 4,000 Verizon and Sprint resellers.

Company executives hope that with the device's numerous capabilities and a scheduled appearance on the Good Morning America talk show Thursday morning, the PC-EPhone will be able to find a strong footing in the handheld market.

"We are being bombarded by interest," Meltzer said enthusiastically. "Now, who wants to see how this thing works?"

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