Sharp Redesigns PDA for Net Access

, top player in Japan’s personal digital assistant (PDA)
market, has launched a new information service to help reposition its
popular Zaurus PDAs as “anytime, anywhere, by anyone” mobile Internet
computing devices.

Sharp has dominated the Japanese PDA market since the release of its first
Zaurus model in October 1993. Since then, more than 1.9 million Zaurus units
have been sold.

“But today, you can’t satisfy users by merely selling them hardware,” said
Isamu Washizuka, a Sharp vice president. “The way of using has become more
important than the hardware itself.”

So in March, Sharp launched a website catering to the communication and
information needs of mobile users.

And recent Zaurus models, including a high-end model released today, have
been redesigned to ensure quick and easy Internet access.

“We will furnish our hardware customers with information services as well,”
said Sharp director Toshiaki Urushisako about the Sharp Space Town for
Zaurus website, launched on March 20.

In addition to e-mail and Internet access, Sharp Space Town offers
business-related resources from Nikkei Business Publications; information on
movies, restaurants, and events such as concerts from Pia Corp.; and
job-search assistance from Recruit. Service fees range from 300
to 500 yen
(US$2.50 to $4.16) per month.

Sharp hopes to sign up 250,000 Sharp Space Town subscribers within the first

“With the relentless spread of networks — exemplified by the Internet —
there is an ever-increasing need for digital information appliances,” said
Toshiaki Urushisako, general manager of Sharp’s Information Systems Group.

With that precept in mind, recent Zaurus models emphasize fast and simple
mobile Internet access by incorporating such features as an “Internet
reservation recording” function.

This enables users to set their Zaurus to automatically download
pre-selected contents at a specified time, such as early morning when phone
rates are lower, for viewing later in the day.

Sharp’s next aim is to enhance the capabilities of the Zaurus as a business
communication terminal.

A Business Zaurus model that will enable users to access Lotus Notes Domino
groupware on an IBM server via a conventional telephone line or cellular
phone is planned for a September release.

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