Panasonic to launch durable PDA

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. unveiled a rugged PDA (personal digital assistant) which is water resistant and can withstand drops of up to 1.2 meters, the company announced Tuesday. The ProNote FG Handy, to be sold in North America as the Toughbook 01, is the company's first PDA device, the company said.

The PDA's ability to withstand falls and to resist water drops from every direction makes it suitable for those working at industrial sites, the company said.

The device runs Windows CE 3.0, has a touch-screen color TFT (thin film transistor) LCD (liquid crystal display) with front light, a keyboard with back light and a SD (secure digital) card slot, according to a Matsushita statement. It measures 98 by 41 by 173 millimeters and weighs 480 grams. The battery lasts for up to 24 hours if the front light is not used. Optional features include internal mobile packet data or wireless LAN systems, a GPS (Global Positioning System) unit and a bar code reader.

Matsushita unveiled a rugged mobile PC, the ProNote Air FG in June, but users wanted something smaller and lighter. The ProNote FG Handy meets that demand, said Ikue Sakai, a spokeswoman for Matsushita.

The company has already started taking orders in North America and Europe, and will be ready to ship the products at the end of November, said Sakai. It will start taking orders in Japan from Thursday, and will take another two months to ship the product there.

The device will be priced at 143,000 yen (US$1,167) in Japan or about $999 in the U.S., the statement said. The company plans to manufacture 50,000 units a year.

Matsushita is just the latest in a line of Japanese companies to enter the PDA market, following on the heels of NEC Corp. and Fujitsu Ltd. By making its device rugged and aiming it at corporate users, the company is trying to distinguish itself from the others, Sakai said. Matsushita has no plans to enter the consumer market with the device at this point, she said.

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