Compaq to launch Palm PC with colour screen

Compaq today announced the Aero 2100, a palm-size PC running on the Windows CE operating system that will include a colour screen and up to 16MB of memory.

The Aero 2100 will begin shipping worldwide in the middle of March, said Gernot Radl, Compaq's business development manager for handheld products in Europe, Middle East and Africa, during the company's international press day held here in London today.

The new palm-size PC will likely be used by salespeople and healthcare professionals who need to capture or access data in the field, said Radl, or by any professional who needs a personal organiser.

The Aero 2100 includes a 256-colour TFT screen with reflexive technology that uses ambient light to improve visibility, said Radl. Its screen is 44 per cent larger than 3Com's market leading PalmPilot, according to product materials.

Data can be entered into the unit with the pen-like stylus or by a screen-based touch keyboard.

The Aero 2100 can be synchronised with a PC with either an infrared beam or by placing it in its docking cradle connected to a PC. It can be connected to a network through its CompactFlash slot, where the smaller equivalent of a PCMCIA card can be inserted. A 56K modem can also be inserted in the CompactFlash slot, which can then be used to dial up through a mobile or fixed-line phone, said Radl.

The unit comes with a 10-hour battery; a heavier 20-hour battery can be purchased. Compaq estimates that the 10-hour battery is enough to last a week for the average user, because of the unit's instant-on and automatic-off power saving features, said Radl. The machine doesn't need to boot up and it shuts off after being left unattended for three minutes.

One feature designed to address the struggle that IT managers face in managing handheld devices is its Compaq Asset Management feature. Each time the user logs on to the network with the device, it sends an HTML file to the network with important information about the device, such as the serial number and user name, said Radl.

In the second half of the year, the Aero 2100 will include text-to-speech capability that was developed in house, that will allow the palm-size PC to read e-mails to the user, said Radl. In the first release, the product will save up to two hours of recordings, such as dictated memos or messages. Voice files can be attached to e-mails, giving busy users the ability to respond to e-mails with voice messages.

Individuals will be able to purchase it at retail stores, while enterprise customers will go through direct or reseller channels, said Radl. The unit will cost between $US500 and $US600, depending on the amount of memory and other features. The cost will not vary more than 5 per cent between the US and the rest of the world, said Radl. And although the product will be rolled-out worldwide at the same time, there may be minor delays because of language availability, said Radl.

The colour display adds about 20 or 25 per cent to the price and weight to the device, but customers are willing to pay for it, said Radl.

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