Dell halts Axim shipments over software problem

Dell Computer has halted shipments of its Axim PDAs (personal digital assistants) after discovering a software glitch that affects users of PDAs shipped with Microsoft's new Windows Mobile 2003 operating system.

The problem lies in the firmware of Axim handhelds shipped with the new operating system, said Jess Blackburn, a Dell spokesman. The problem code was developed by Dell, and is not part of Microsoft's operating system, he said.

A number of Axim users have crowded Dell's support forums and other message boards complaining about performance issues with Axim handhelds that were purchased after June 23, when Microsoft released Windows Mobile 2003. The first reports were posted in early July, but Dell became aware of the problem early this week, Blackburn said.

Several problems were reported with the devices, but the most common appeared to be an unacceptable waiting period for the operating system's Start menu to materialize. Users also complained on several forums about long wait times to open documents and navigate around the operating system features.

The Round Rock, Texas, company declined to provide a guideline for when a fix would be distributed, but "a solution is on the way," Blackburn said.

Dell did not introduce new hardware with the launch of Windows Mobile 2003, as did other vendors such as Hewlett-Packard Co. Instead, it chose to include the new software on every Axim shipped after the release of the new operating system.

The company had intended to offer an upgrade for Axim users with the older Pocket PC 2002 operating system, but "an internal accounting issue" prevented Dell from posting that upgrade offer on its site, and the offer was postponed once the firmware performance issues were discovered, Blackburn said. The upgrade offer will be posted once the firmware problem is solved, he said.

The Axim is Dell's first PDA, and has done reasonably well amid a tough market for handheld sales. Overall shipments of PDAs have dropped for the last two quarters, but Dell has managed to gain market share due to the low price of the Axim, according to data from IDC.

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