Sharp unwraps new Zaurus

Sharp Corp.'s latest Zaurus PDA (personal digital assistant) was unveiled on Wednesday afternoon, with a built-in video recorder, camcorder and mobile phone.

The MI-E21 model is a step up from the previous Zaurus, which was the first to offer video recording. Instead of using a separate video recorder, which recorded MPEG4 video from a television onto a memory card that was then inserted in the Zaurus, the new model records directly from the television's video input via a cable and a video recording card that slots into the device.

The direct recording is done by real-time software compression technology for moving images called Nancy Codec, that has been developed by Office Noa Inc. Because the images are compressed by the software, less CPU (central processing unit) power is needed, giving better picture and sound quality. Users can also use the card to record music as MP3 files.

Another new feature is a digital camera card that turns the Zaurus into a camcorder. The recorded images can then be sent as a attached file in an e-mail.

Inserting NTT DoCoMo Inc.'s wireless data card into the slot turns the Zaurus into a telephone for outgoing calls. Users can make outgoing phone calls via the PHS (personal handyphone system) network but the device cannot receive incoming calls.

The Japanese PDA market is small compared to the cell phone market, but Sharp says it aims to grow the PDA market by providing content such as games and e-books for Zaurus PDAs on its Web site. The latest model is part of Sharp's attempts to attract more low-end users, said Hiroshi Uno, manager of Sharp's mobile systems division.

The MI-E21 Zaurus has a 32-bit RISC processor, 32M bytes of memory, Compact Flash and Secure Digital card slots. It has a sliding keyboard and a 3.5-inch reflective color LCD (liquid crystal display) panel with front light. The battery lasts up to 11 hours with the light switched off, Sharp said.

The product will be on sale from Sept. 7 in Japan and the company is planning to produce 25,000 units a month. The price will be around 60,000 yen ($A855), Sharp said at a Tokyo news conference.

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