Compaq Products Blend Work, Personal Lives

Compaq Computer Corp. has introduced a line of wireless and home Internet devices aimed at enabling corporate customers to more effectively integrate their professional and personal lives.

The product line, announced last week, includes two versions of the popular BlackBerry wireless e-mail devices from Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) in Waterloo, Ontario. One version is home networking equipment that can support either wired or wireless networks and is based on Microsoft Corp.'s Web Companion service. The other version is an MP3 audio player.

Although a number of other vendors, including Dell Computer Corp., resell the RIM BlackBerry devices, Jerry Meerkatz, vice president of Internet products and services at Compaq, said his company views the devices as an integral part of a corporate enterprise information system. The US$399 iPaq W1000 and the larger, Palm-size H1100, priced at $499, will allow corporate clients to extend Microsoft Exchange e-mail networks to mobile workers in a cohesive manner, Meerkatz explained.

"We're going back to our corporate accounts with Exchange servers and talking to them about extending their usefulness to mobile workers with [the RIM products]," Meerkatz said. He noted that while the new Compaq iPaq Home Internet Appliance - which will sell for as low as $199 after discounts for signing up for service over the Microsoft Network - is pitched at the home user, it has business uses as well.

"A lot of people are doing their work at home," he said, "and we want to provide people with the devices to effectively get them to the Internet."

He emphasized that the deal with RIM in no way diminishes Compaq's interest in the iPaq - its version of Microsoft's Pocket PC - which was introduced in April as a core piece of its mobile computing strategy. Compaq underestimated demand for the Pocket PC, whose sales have been "overwhelmingly successful," Meerkatz said.

Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn., backed that assessment. "Compaq is sold out of the Pocket PC," he said.

Michael Mace, chief competitive officer at Palm Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif., said Compaq's continued push into the mobile computing market was expected.

"This is not news," he said. "Compaq is pushing every button they can" to get into the market. As at Compaq, business at Palm "continues to exceed even our very aggressive forecasts," Mace said. "We're growing at 100 percent a year ... and have underestimated demand."

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