NEC Updates Windows CE-Based MobilePro

NEC Corp. likes Microsoft Corp.'s Windows CE.

While companies such as Philips and Everex are jumping ship, and others await the Pocket PC update, NEC is quietly successful with its series of MobilePro handhelds, which the company is updating.

Today the company released its new US$799 MobilePro 780, boosting performance and features.

The 780 offers a faster processor and graphics controller, a new scrolling wheel for better Web site viewing, and a handful of new software features, says Duane Cowgill, product line manager. The 780 also runs the latest version of Windows CE Handheld PC Professional Edition (version 2.11) and the most recent update of the included "pocket" programs (version 3.01).

NEC calls the unit a "lightweight PC companion." It features a 168-MHz NEC VR4121 processor, 32 MB of memory, a 8.1-inch (diagonal) color touch display, a 78-key keyboard (92 percent full-size), and a 56K-bps modem.

You can upgrade the 780 with both hardware and software. Its operating system resides in 24MB of replaceable ROM. Other expansion avenues include a Type III CompactFlash slot and a Type II PC Card slot. Either could host a wireless connection, he says. You can also connect the unit to a desktop or notebook via the serial or infrared ports.

Heftier for Bigger Jobs

The 9.6-by-5.2-by-1.1-inch unit weighs 1.7 pounds, making it small, but not exactly tiny.

"We're trying to be small but usable," Cowgill says. "This is not a pocketable unit."

The MobilePro 780 offers a set of features you won't find on a typical palm-sized unit, either. While the palm-sized devices are good for contact and calendar information, the MobilePro 780 is used for standard applications, such as word processing and spreadsheets, which run on Windows CE. "To really create content, you need a keyboard," he says.

The Windows CE operating system continues to take its share of knocks from industry critics and consumers. But Cowgill says people who actually use the operating system find plenty to like about it.

"We're very happy with what we've been able to do with CE," he says. "CE doesn't get the respect it deserves."

The OS is loaded with underappreciated features, he says. For example, the instant-on capability of CE devices "can change what you use a PC for." Since you don't have to wait for the system to boot, the 780 is essentially always ready to go.

And Windows CE will become a better platform as more devices and software take advantage of the inherent capabilities that go untapped now, Cowgill says.

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