Pocket PC, MiPad Units Touted by Microsoft

SAN MATEO (03/27/2000) - Microsoft Corp. is moving forward in the device market with plans to launch its revamped Pocket PC later this month and, further out, a handheld device capable of recognizing voice commands and taking dictation from users.

Marking the third attempt by the software giant to perfect its Windows CE operating system and gain market share on Palm, Microsoft will launch the new Pocket PC April 19 in New York City's Grand Central Station to emphasize a "mobility" theme, according to Windows CE group product manager Phil Holden.

New features to look for in upcoming versions of the Pocket PC will include an e-book reader, an MP3 music player, video capabilities, and an application Holden called a "transcriber," which translates a user's handwriting when etched into the unit, converting it to text.

"Improvements in the Windows CE operating system give this newest version a bit more focus, unlike the previous version when Microsoft seemed to be throwing a lot of things up against the wall to see if they would stick," said Tim Scannell, an analyst at Mobile Insights, in Mountain View, Calif. "But with the ability to download e-books and MP3 files, [these changes] are signaling that Microsoft is targeting consumers rather than corporations."

Meanwhile, at Microsoft's Latin America Enterprise Solutions Conference 2000 in Miami last week, Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates demonstrated the MiPad, a Microsoft project that aims to eliminate the difficulty of entering data into handheld devices.

Without having to use a pen-type interface or a small keyboard, a user can use his or her voice to compose and send e-mail messages, browse the Web, access a contact list, and dictate text. The device could even double as a cellular phone, according to information on the Microsoft Research Web site. Users would only need to use a pen device to point to the place on the device's screen where they want the MiPad to enter the text or carry out the command they choose.

"As you think about software, you have to think about a much broader environment, to make it easy for people to access information," Gates said.

MiPad -- "Mi" is an acronym for multimodal interface -- is being developed by Microsoft Research's Speech Technology Group unit. In appearance, the handheld device is similar to Palm's PalmPilot.

Microsoft Corp., in Redmond, Wash., is at www.microsoft.com.

Juan Carlos Perez is Latin American bureau chief for the IDG News Service, an InfoWorld affiliate. Additional reporting by Dan Neel.

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