FIC puts Bluetooth into Pocket PC

A new device from the Taiwanese motherboard maker is one of the first Pocket PC handheld computers to include Bluetooth wireless connectivity

Taiwan's First International Computer (FIC) will launch a handheld computer combining Microsoft's Pocket PC 2002 software with built-in Bluetooth wireless connectivity, the company said on Thursday at the CeBIT trade show in Hannover, Germany. The decision is likely to mean price competition in the market for Pocket PC devices, while at the same time making Bluetooth more accessible to handheld users.

Gene Sheu, president of FIC's Networking Information Group, said in a statement that the company has already seen strong advance orders from customers in Central America.

The device includes standard Pocket PC features, such 32MB of flash ROM and 64MB of SDRAM, a TFT LCD touch screen, Compact Flash and Secure Digital expansion slots, and a choice of Intel StrongARM or Xscale processors. The main innovation is built-in Bluetooth and infrared communications.

Bluetooth lets devices wirelessly exchange data with mobile phones, PCs and one another over a short range.

Compaq sells a Bluetooth-enabled iPaq Pocket PC, but it is significantly more expensive than the standard iPaq. Bluetooth CF and SD cards are also available, for Palm devices as well as Pocket PC, but they occupy one of the device's expansion slots.

FIC is best known as a motherboard maker, and its move into handhelds is partly a response to the increasing shift of motherboard manufacturing from Tawain to mainland China. Taiwanese manufacturers are reacting by moving into higher-end products that require expertise not available on the mainland, such as PDAs and Web tablets.

The company introduced a Linux-based Bluetooth PDA at last summer's Computex trade show in Taiwan.

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