Gadget-hungry buyers can expect to pay a premium for colour enabled CE-based devices, the first of which are expected to be launched next month, but there is still a question mark over whether or not there is a market for colour at this level.
Microsoft, today, started shipping its colour enabled version of its Windows CE operating system to palm-sized PC makers such as Compaq, Hewlett Packard, Casio and Philips. These device manufacturers, of course, will set prices, and it is not surprising that the addition of colour will add a price premium.
"Colour will add more to the price but I think people will be willing to pay for it," said Neil Dagger, Compaq UK's product marketing manager for handheld PCs.
Palm-sized rival Psion, which uses the EPOC operating system developed by Symbian, claims it already has colour capability but at the moment, users are not interested "because of pricing and the drainage on battery life," according to Psion UK spokesman Steve Pang.
He added that with every new version of CE that comes out onto the market, the more it pushes the CE devices away from Psion's user profile. "Later versions have made the devices bigger," added Pang, "and their whole out look is now different to Psion's. CE device makers publish the spec like they would a notebook PC whereas our users are not interested in all that."
Dagger argued that colour was a natural evolution for CE and that there is in fact a demand for colour from the users. "Look what happened to mono notebooks when colour came out. No one wanted them anymore," he said. "I'm sure the numbers will be small to start with but it will definitely appeal to the GQ and FHM readers who look through the gadget pages." Dagger accepted that the role of the handheld is still almost totally to do with contact management yet added that colour still has a role to play here. "You can colour code your contacts, put friends in one colour and business contacts in another colour. These machines do have a picture viewer as well, so who wants to download mono pictures when you can get colour?" added Dagger.
Pang claimed that Psion has not ruled a colour screen out for its palm-sized machines. "It's just a question of what the market demands," he said.