Comdex Fall, Las Vegas: Win CE handhelds look a threat to Psion

Martin Veitch live from Comdex, Las Vegas

A host of products shown this week at Comdex suggests the Windows CE gang will ask some hard questions of the likes of the UK's Psion and Japanese giant Sharp. Philips, Goldstar, Compaq, Casio, Hewlett-Packard and Hitachi were among firms showing handhelds with CE at heart here today, and all looked to offer solid functionality.

Perhaps the most impressive was Philips' Velo 1. Based on a 40MHz MIPS R3000 CPU, the device comes with a V.32bis software fax/modem and sports an elegant clamshell design with well-spaced keyboard. It will be available in March 1997.

However, although the CE handhelds looked to offer a good feature set, it took a good eye to tell them apart. Nearly all have a clamshell design and format that mimics the Hewlett-Packard 200LX. With software vendors offering such a broad range of high-profile names to develop for, though, it will be tough for proprietary players to compete.

That said, Sharp showed one of the most innovative products of the show with its Colour Zaurus, a handheld with 5-inch TFT 65,000-colour screen. The device can also act as a digital camera via an optional attachment and can be used to browse the Web when connected to a cellular phone. However, there are no plans at present to ship the product outside of Japan.

"We will check market acceptance of Windows CE but with several years of handheld design behind us we know that it is not easy to design the right user interface," a spokesman for Sharp said.

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