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Toshiba Guns for Palm with Enterprise-Level PDAs

Despite the current sluggish market for PDAs, Toshiba Corp. Monday dipped its toes into that well becoming the second company in a week to enter the increasingly crowded space.

Toshiba is looking to take share away from market-leader Palm Inc., and it has turned to Microsoft Corp. to provide its Windows CE operating system for the push.

Toshiba's first offerings, the GENIO e550 and the GENIO e550/MD, are aimed squarely at high-end enterprise customers. Both feature an Intel StrongARM 206 MHz processor, 32MB of DRAM, two expansion slots -- a Secure Digital Input-Output (SDIO) slot for an SDIO card and SD memory card, and a CF-II slot for compact flash cards -- and Pocket versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player. The GENIO e550/MD adds a 1GB Microdrive.

Toshiba said it and third-party developers will support the expansion slots with a number of applications, including memory cards, PHS data communications cards, modem cards, Bluetooth cards and barcode readers. Other cards, including GPS and wireless LAN modules, will be future additions to the market.

"Toshiba is demonstrating its expertise in mobile computing by combining an eye-catching industrial design with a unique and innovative approach to expansion," said Ben Waldman, vice president of the Mobile Devices Division at Microsoft. "Toshiba's Pocket PC is not only a beauty to behold, but is also the first PDA to combine a compact flash slot and an SD slot, meaning that users have access to both wireless connectivity and external storage at the same time. Customers have clearly indicated that they need and expect more than just a simple organizer, and this combination of Microsoft software and Toshiba hardware has been designed specifically to meet and exceed customer needs."

Utilizing the multi-layer circuit boards it developed for its portable PCs and cellular phones, Toshiba has slimmed its PDAs down to 17.5 mm. The devices weigh 180 grams with a battery. They feature a 3.5-inch front-light reflective TFT LCD supporting 65,536 colors and 240 x 320 pixel resolution.

Toshiba has not revealed pricing details for either model, but said it would launch the e550 in Japan on August 20, and the e550/MD in September.

Toshiba rival NEC Corp. announced its entry into the PDA market last week, saying it would unveil a PDA targeted at the corporate market by the end of the year. Compaq's iPAQ is currently the leading PDA to utilize Microsoft's WindowsCE platform. Market-leader Palm and runner-up HandSpring both use the PalmOS.

"We looked at many options to power our future Toshiba PDAs and found Microsoft's Pocket PC software to be the best choice to help us build the enterprise-class devices we're known for, combined with software functionality that can't be matched," said Steve Andler, vice president of marketing, Toshiba Computer Systems Group. "We're thrilled to be working with Microsoft in this space -- its Pocket PC platform has redefined the PDA market by offering customers the widest range of functionality on a mobile device and raising the bar for what a mobile device should do. Together we plan to raise that bar even higher."