TI to release Pilot-like PDA

Texas Instruments (TI) is to release a PDA similar to US Robotics' Pilot later this year.

The Avigo is a pen-based graphical PDA that can synchronise with popular organiser applications for the PC. Featuring common PDA applications such as scheduler, notepad, and address book, the unit will be available in the UK in November. The Avigo also features a database-like application that allows users to custom-format lists.

The Avigo comes with a cradle which can be connected to a PC's serial port, or, for suitably equipped PCs, the IrDA-standard infra-red port on the unit can be used to transfer data. Lotus Organiser will be bundled with the Avigo, although the unit will also support Microsoft Schedule Plus, Microsoft Outlook 97 and Symantec ACT.

In contrast to US Robotics' Pilot, TI has no plans at present to launch a modem for the Avigo. Bernhard Krautsheid, European marketing manager for TI's educational and productivity solutions business explained: "Once people become accustomed to the level of functionality within a PC, it's very difficult to give them something which is going backwards. We couldn't get the level of functionality in [a modem]."

A prototype of the unit seen by ZDNet News this week bears a striking resemblance to the Pilot, both physically and functionally. The stylus is housed in a slot within the case of the unit; buttons for quick access to the main functions of the unit are placed on the front panel; and a representation of a keyboard on the screen is used to input text. Not present on the prototype, but planned for the release version, is a quick input system similar to the system of lettering used on mobile phone keypads.

One major difference between the plans for the Avigo and the present position of the Pilot is software development. While a full software developers kit including a Windows-based emulator is available for the Pilot, TI has no plans to allow custom applications to be written for its PDA. A limited amount of development will be possible through the data transfer protocol used in the Avigo, but this can only work with the existing database software. Krautsheid said he did not see an immediate need for an SDK, although such developments could come from enthusiasts when - and if - the product gains momentum.