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HP Colors Pocket PC 2002 Release with New Handhelds

With Microsoft Corp. unleashing its Pocket PC 2002 operating system to much fanfare, it's easy to gloss over the myriad firms who have stepped up to endorse the new wireless software.

That is, except for Palo Alto, Calif.'s Hewlett-Packard Co., which, after announcing a blockbuster merger with Compaq Computer Corp. on Labor Day, began shipping two new color personal digital assistants to retailers Thursday.

Officially launched at the DEMOmobile conference in La Jolla, Calif., the HP Jornada 565 and 568 PDAs are the first mobile devices to be fitted with Microsoft Pocket PC 2002 Premium Edition software. HP's primary target is the enterprise road warrior -- the "mobile professional" who wants a powerful, up-to-date device packed with enough memory and features beyond current offerings from itself, Compaq, Palm Inc. and Handspring Inc.

In addition to being powered by the Intel StrongARM 206 MHz processor, the new Jornadas feature a built-in CompactFlash Type 1 extended slot, which makes it possible for users to add memory cards and accessories such as wireless network solutions. HP's devices also come with a removable, rechargeable 14-hour, lithium-polymer battery and HP Safe Store, which offers an additional 8 MB of FlashROM.

A few software firms have also jumped on board to pack their wares into the new, slim devices. These include Landware's OmniSolve, a business calculator, and Developer One's CodeWallet Pro, for organizing personal data securely. HP also added its own Chai and Microchai software to allow enterprise users to run Java-based applications on the Jornadas.

As for aesthetics, the new HP handhelds feature a 16-bit front-lit TFT reflective color screen for indoor and outdoor viewing.

And, of course, attractive value proposition for the higher-end Jornadas is increased by the inclusion of Pocket PC 2002, which comes with Pocket Outlook, Pocket Word, Pocket Excel, Pocket Internet Explorer, Terminal Services Client, MSN Messenger, Microsoft Reader 2.0 and Microsoft Windows Media Player 8 for Pocket PC -- basically anything and everything most users would want on their desktops or laptops.

While Handspring and Palm, like many PC manufacturers, have dropped prices on older model PDAs, HP is confidently moving ahead at what are considered higher prices for its new products. Jornada 565 features 32 MB of RAM and has a retail price of $599. The higher-end 568 offers double the RAM and should go for $649. Both are expected to hit shelves in the U.S. on Oct. 4 along with Pocket PC 2002. A $50 mail-in rebate is planned to be available for both products from Oct. 4 through the end of the year.

J. Gerry Purdy, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer, of market research firm Mobile Insights Inc., said the new Jornadas are an attractive pair of gadgets.

"All the desirable and leading technologies have come together beautifully in one lightweight, thin device that optimizes productivity and entertainment capabilities for the most discriminating mobile professional," Purdy said in a statement. "With the built-in CompactFlash Type 1 extended slot, IT professionals are going to find it easy to adapt it to many enterprise situations."

What isn't yet clear is how the HP/Compaq merger will affect each company's handheld lines.