Dell Unwires Axim

Dell introduced three new Axim XO handheld computers today that it hopes will capitalize on the burgeoning mobile enterprise sector.

The Round Rock, Texas, computer maker outfitted its new Axim X30 PDAs for the first time with Intel PXA270 XScale processors and Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition software for Pocket PC. The devices also support both 802.11b and Bluetooth wireless technology, which none of the earlier models did.

Prices start at $199 for a non-wireless configuration, $249 after a rebate for combination wireless capability, and $349 for the fastest handheld processor available. The new PDAs are expected to compete with similar offerings from HP and palmOne .

Prospects are good for mobile enterprise. Analyst firm Gartner estimates more than 45 percent of U.S. workforce already uses mobile technology in some manner. Jupiter Research is forecasting the U.S. installed base of handheld PDAs numbered just over 14 million at the end of 2003 and will grow to 20 million by 2008, a 7 percent penetration of the overall U.S. population.

However, handheld sales are in flux. According to recent stats from IDC, only Dell remained relatively unscathed, with only a 1.1 percent sequential decline in shipments last quarter and a modest increase of 2.2 percent year-over-year, bringing its market share up 4.7 percent to 7 percent.

Market leader palmOne was hit particularly hard, posting a sequential decline in shipments of 38.7 percent and a slip in market share from 39.4 percent to 36.1 percent; Toshiba suffered a year-over-year shipment decrease of 34.1 percent and a sequential decrease of 48.4 percent; Sony’s market share dropped to single digits on a sequential drop of 57.2 percent and year-over-year drop of 49.6 percent; and HP’s shipments, while suffering a 32.9 percent sequential drop, rose 24.8 percent over the same quarter last year, enabling it to maintain its 25.7 percent market share.

The new Axim X30 series is run by Intel’s PXA270 XScale processors, which offer improved multimedia and power management than earlier XScale CPUs. When purchasing an Axim X30, users can choose between two processor speeds: 312MHz or 624MHz, the fastest processor speed available for a handheld.

The new handhelds, which weigh a light 4.9 ounces and measure a relatively compact 4.82 x 0.59 x 3 inches, also feature 64MB or 32MB of RAM as well as 64MB or 32MB of ROM, depending on the configuration purchased. All three configurations include a built-in Secure Digital I/O slot for peripheral and memory expansion, a 3.5-inch color display with a 240×320 (QVGA) resolution, a headphone jack and improved recorder, as well as a scroll dial.

While Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition allows for 640×480 (VGA) displays, Dell has chosen to stick with the screens at the same resolution Pocket PCs have been offering for years. The Axim XO display can be viewed, however, in portrait or landscape mode thanks to the Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition.

James Miller and Susan Kuchinskas contributed to this report.

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