Dell to unveil new Axims, MP3 player

Dell Inc. plans to announce an MP3 player based on a hard drive, and unveil two new Axim PDAs (personal digital assistants) this Thursday, according to a source familiar with the company's plans.

Dell Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Dell will preside over a webcast announcement next Thursday in which the new products will be revealed, as well as a new online storefront, according to an e-mail invitation to journalists Thursday.

The new MP3 player will be called the Digital Jukebox, and come with a 15G-byte hard drive, the source said.

Apple Computer Inc. has received a great deal of critical and commercial praise for its iPod MP3 players, and Dell will follow its usual strategy of letting another company demonstrate a market for a particular product before entering that market itself.

The new Axims will come in more configurations, and the higher-end one will come with integrated Wi-Fi, the source said. Dell also slimmed down this new generation of Axims, according to the source.

Dell will almost certainly include the new Windows Mobile 2003 operating system on the new PDAs, a transition that didn't go very well for the company earlier this year. A line of Axims sold after the June launch of Microsoft Corp.'s operating system featured buggy firmware developed by Dell, and a plan to release an update patch on its Web site backfired when enterprising Pocket PC 2002 users were able to find Dell's patch before it was distributed and give themselves free upgrades.

A Dell representative declined to comment on unannounced products.

Company executives have been hinting about increasing the Round Rock, Texas, company's presence in consumer electronics, as noted during its second-quarter earnings conference call.

An analyst said earlier this year that Dell plans to introduce a line of LCD (liquid crystal display) televisions this year, and is working with TV vendors in Asia.

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Tom Krazit

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