3Com, IBM Debut Palmtops for Corporate Users

3Com Corp. and IBM Corp. this week introduced palm-size computers aimed squarely at corporate computer users.

The vendors have enhanced their handheld organizers by adding memory, expansion slots for peripherals such as pagers, an optional 33.6K bit/ sec modem and connectivity software.

3Com unveiled the Palm IIIx and V, both sporting a new microprocessor, the latest version of the Palm operating system, and a clearer monochrome screen. IBM sells the devices under its own label, called WorkPad 30x and c3, respectively.

IBM's WorkPads feature additional software. This includes EasySync for Lotus Notes, which connects the device to Notes servers, and WorkPad Infrared Synchronization, which lets WorkPad users exchange data with one another.

The Palm IIIx doubles the memory of the Palm III organizer to 4M bytes, allowing users to work on bigger applications and store more data. The IIIx also has an improved LCD screen that creates a clearer monochrome display than the Palm III's backlit screen.

The Palm V represents a greater break with the earlier models. It weighs just four ounces instead of about six, and is less than 1/2 inch thick, compared with about one inch for the Palm III models. Instead of using two AAA batteries, the Palm V uses a lithium ion battery that recharges when the device is put into its accompanying cradle. 3Com says the charged battery runs for about two weeks.

"The new Palm V case fits a lot nicer in my palm. The design is very thin and attractive," says Steven Lui, vice president of investment and systems at Insurance Corp. of Hannover in Los Angeles. "The Palm operating system is extremely efficient; unlike the bloated Windows CE systems with their higher-resolution screens, the Palm can perform any of the prescribed tasks much quicker."

Suggested retail prices are US$369 for the Palm IIIx and $449 for the Palm V. The corresponding IBM products are priced similarly.

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