NEC readies power handheld

The CeBIT America show is full of road warriors on the prowl for lightweight but powerful portable computing. NEC is showing its entry: a hybrid phone and personal digital assistant.

Power Handheld, developed by Bsquare, is about to be released in the United Kingdom bundled with a wireless phone and Internet service from a wireless carrier, according to Michael Tidwell, Bsquare director of business development. The product itself retails for about US$650 but is being sold for about $280 when a customer signs a long-term contract for wireless service at $75 monthly.

NEC hopes to begin reselling the handheld device in the United States within six months, according to Larry Sheffield, an NEC senior vice president.

Features, Specs

The Power Handheld measures about 3 by 5 inches and weighs about 11 ounces. Its 640 by 480 color screen in landscape orientation is one of the larger displays in this product category.

The unit's QWERTY keyboard runs the length of the product and is designed for thumb typing, much like a BlackBerry device. The product comes with 64MB of permanent storage and 128MB of RAM.

For communications, the Power Handheld includes a speakerphone and built-in GSM wireless circuitry, with modem speeds of 20 kilobits to 40 kilobits per second, according to Tidwell. An SD slot provides expandability for Bluetooth devices or additional storage. An update to the product this summer will include a louder, clearer, speaker phone, he adds.

For software, the product uses a version of Windows CE.Net that has been tweaked to resemble Windows XP. Bundled software options include PIM programs, Web browsing, VPN and security, encryption, handwriting recognition, a file viewer for popular PC applications, and a Citrix thin client for running network-based programs.

Bsquare has been promoting the Power Handheld concept for several years, providing reference designs and seeking partnerships.

Future Directions

NEC's Sheffield says that the company may prepare a more rugged version of the handheld device, also for U.S. release, through a wireless carrier in the United States that supports GSM.

The category of lighter, smaller, feature-packed notebook alternatives continues to draw entries, the vendors note. No matter how light your notebook is, a lower weight is always desirable.

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