Acer sticks with Palm, adds a splash of colour

Just two months after an Acer Inc. executive questioned whether heavy competition would force the company to stop selling PDAs (personal digital assistants) based on the Palm OS, the company upgraded its line of Palm OS-based PDAs with new models that sport color screens.

At the Computex exhibition in June, an Acer executive said sales of the company's Palm OS-based PDAs had been disappointing and aggressive price cuts on PDAs from Palm Inc. and IBM Corp. meant that Acer, in Taipei, was hard pressed to turn a profit selling Palm-based PDAs. At that time, the executive said Acer was in the process of deciding whether to support the handheld operating system in new devices. Despite tough competition from its rivals and lackluster sales, Acer has decided to stick with the Palm OS. The two new devices unveiled Friday, the s50 and s60, are based on a 33MHz DragonBall VZ processor from Motorola Inc. and each offers 16M bytes of RAM, one Memory Stick card slot, Palm OS version 4.1, a removable Li-ion rechargeable battery, and a full-color TFT-LCD (thin film transistor liquid crystal display.) Both the s50 and s60 come with standard Palm applications -- including address book, date book, to do list, memo pad, mail and calculator -- installed alongside several applications developed by Acer, including a clock, an image viewer and a back-up utility, which allows users to save data to a Memory Stick card.

The s60 also comes with Acer's Audio Box application, which can play MP3 files stored on a Memory Stick card using either headphones or its built-in speaker. It also offers the ability to record voice memos using a built-in microphone. Audio Box is also available on Acer's s10 PDA, which was introduced last year and offers a greyscale screen. MP3 is a file format for storing compressed audio data.

Acer will offer support for six languages with the s50 and s60: English, French, German, Italian, simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese. The Chinese language version of the Palm OS was developed by Acer.

The s50 and s60 will hit store shelves in Taiwan next week and will be available worldwide in September. The expected retail price for the s50 is US$299 and the s60 is $359, Acer said.

In addition to its three Palm OS-based PDA models, Acer also offers two PDAs -- the n20 and n20w -- that use Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Powered Pocket PC 2002 software.

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