Hitachi to roll out wearable PC

Hitachi will roll out a wearable PC and companion head-mount display for business users in February, the company announced Tuesday.

The WIA-100NB Wearable Internet Appliance will allow workers to access the Internet or intranets and to browse data while keeping their hands free. The head-mount display, which can be placed in front of an eye with or without glasses, gives the user an illusion of a 13-inch display around 60 centimeters in front of their eyes and has an SVGA (800 by 600 pixel) resolution, Hitachi said in a statement.

Aimed at workers on the move, Hitachi has tried to keep the weight of the computer and display to a minimum and the entire set weighs a total of 500 grams, including a 310-gram main appliance, an 80-gram head-mount display, and other peripherals such as a cable. The main appliance measures 140 millimeters by 90 millimeters by 26 millimeters, the statement said.

The product uses Microsoft Corp.'s Windows CE as its operating system and can be operated by a pointing device, which allows a finger to trace the cursor around the screen and click on items in view.

The WIA-100NB features Hitachi's SuperH 32-Bit 128 MHz RISC processor, 32M bytes of memory, a Compact Flash slot and a USB (universal serial bus) interface. The battery last for three hours, according to Hitachi.

The company developed this product and supplied it to the U.S.-based wearable computer maker Xybernaut Corp. on an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) base under a license agreement, which was completed between the two companies in June last year, Hitachi said.

Xybernaut will market the device under its brand name in the U.S. as the 'Poma' and showed samples of the device at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month. Hitachi will market the device in Japan under its own brand name as the WIA-100NB Wearable Internet Appliance.

In the U.S., Xybernaut started taking orders on Jan. 7 and plans to ship the product before the end of the first quarter this year at a price of around US$1,499. The product is targeted at consumers for entertainment purposes, according to a Xybernaut statement.

In Japan, Hitachi will start taking orders from corporate users on Jan. 23 and begin shipping the product on Feb. 28. for around ¥300,000 (US$2,283).

"There are different market trends in Japan and the U.S.," said Yoshinobu Ohinata, a spokesman for Hitachi.

"The reason why Hitachi targets business users in Japan, while Xybernaut targets consumers with the same product, is that the Japanese market has less experience in wearable computing products, so that we need to make it clear what this product can be used for. Once people get used to this kind of product, our marketing strategy may change in the future," he said.

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Kuriko Miyake

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