Next-generation Pocket PC devices on the way

Several manufacturers are planning to ship Pocket PC devices based on Intel's next-generation processor technology, XScale, in coming weeks

The next few weeks should see the launch of a new generation of more powerful Pocket PC handheld computers with longer battery life, as several manufacturers prepare the first devices based on Intel's XScale embedded processors.

XScale Pocket PCs are on the way from manufacturers including Casio, Hitachi, Toshiba, Acer, HP and Fujitsu Siemens. The latter's Pocket Loox wireless handheld was originally expected to be the first XScale handheld, but in February the device was delayed to the end of July because of power management problems.

Intel began shipping XScale prototype devices to manufacturers this spring, and the first handheld computers using the chips are expected to appear on the market as early as June. The XScale line will replace Intel's StrongARM line, with Intel promising that they will consume one-quarter to three-quarters less power than the StrongARM SA-1110, while delivering faster clock speeds.

HP is to release a successor to the Jornada 560, which will have similar specifications to the unannounced 570, but will bear the iPaq brand name and run on a 400MHz PXA250 XScale processor. The device is likely to appear next month, as HP has committed to an XScale Pocket PC by mid-year.

Toshiba is also planning to release an XScale handheld in June, and this is likely to be the e740, details of which have already been leaked by resellers. The e740 will run on a 400MHz PXA250, with 64MB of RAM, 32MB of ROM, CompactFlash and Secure Digital expansion slots, integrated Bluetooth, and a 240 x 320 pixel TFT LCD display, according to sources. It is expected to sell for about $599.

Toshiba has already announced an XScale device for the Japanese market, the Genio e550G, which has similar features to the e740. The e550G may be the first XScale Pocket PC device available, as it is expected to ship at the end of May or in early June.

Casio, Hitachi and Acer are expected to begin shipping new Pocket PCs based on XScale in June, as Hitachi makes its debut in the Pocket PC market with an integrated wireless device. The three manufacturers will all use the PXA250, and Acer will also ship a lower-end PXA210-based device, according to industry reports.

Intermec Technologies, a less-known hardware maker, is planning to begin selling a ruggedised XScale Pocket PC in the third quarter.

The new processors using XScale technology will be available in two different lines, the PXA250 and the PXA210. The PXA250 will come in speeds of 200MHz, 300MHz and 400MHz and will be aimed at the handheld market. Clock speeds for the PXA210 will be 133MHz and 200MHz -- lower than clock speeds for Intel's StrongARM processors -- and will be aimed at entry-level handhelds and mobile phones.

Products with the new chips will be able to run software for devices fitted with StrongARM SA-1110 processors, including gadgets like Compaq Computer's iPaq and Hewlett-Packard's Jornada.

Both processors will come with 64KB of on-chip cache -- allowing for improved performance -- as well as integrated components such as a memory controller, an LCD (liquid-crystal display) controller and an expansion controller, which will reduce power consumption.

The PXA250 includes a power management application that better regulates the chip so that it only uses an appropriate amount of power for a certain activity.

CNET's Richard Shim contributed to this report.

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