MS Looks to Right Itself with Pocket PC Launch

SAN MATEO (03/22/2000) - Microsoft Corp. announced today it would launch its revamped Pocket PC at New York City's Grand Central Station on April 19. The launch will mark the third attempt by the software giant to perfect its troubled Windows CE operating system.

During today's announcement at Microsoft headquarters, in Redmond, Washington, Phil Holden, the group product manager for Windows CE, admitted that Microsoft is currently trailing Palm Inc. for market share in the handheld computing arena. Holden said that the re-launch of the Pocket PC, which will be manufactured by companies such as Casio, Compaq, and Hewlett-Packard, is an opportunity for Microsoft to re-establish itself in the handheld market.

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 a application Holden called a "transcriber", which identifies a user's handwriting when etched into the unit, converting it to text.

Holden said that Microsoft, in the weeks prior to the Pocket PC launch, will announce several alliances with corporations to provide customized versions of the handheld units, modified to each individual company's needs.

But Tim Scannell, an analyst at Mobile Insights, in Mountain View, California, said he believes Microsoft is still peddling a consumer product.

"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 Scannell.

"But with the ability to download e-books and MP3 files, (these changes) are signaling that Microsoft is targeting consumers rather than corporations."

Microsoft Corp., in Redmond, Washington, is at http://www.microsoft.com/.

Mobile Insights, in Mountain View, California, is at http://www.mobileinsights.com/.

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