Windows XP Handhelds: The Next Small Thing

Who (besides Microsoft) says you need a separate flavor of Windows to run a handheld? Unique approaches three startups are taking toward a new form factor brings new power to portability

I started writing this column on a computer running Windows XP Professional, but also on a handheld with no desk or other flat surface to support it. That paradox is provided by the namesake computer of Tiqit, Tiqit is neither the first nor most recent company to try to shrink the PC to its practical limits, but it may be the most successful and indeed only choice for something near its dimensions when it ships in the U.S. later this year.

Read the follow-up column: A Deeper Look at the Tiqit and Windows XP Handhelds

The idea of the mini-PC or sub-subnotebook (before marketing departments renamed that category "ultraportables") has been around for a while, The first one I tried was the IBM ThinkPad PC110, a Japanese clamshell palmtop 486 that has clearly influenced the current Sony Vaio "U" series. This is especially true of the PCG-U101 that is also exclusive to the Japanese market but imported by specialty retailers such as Dynamism and Kemplar.

Anyone who has used palmtops like the seminal HP 200LX or the first Windows CE devices will have some idea of the input challenges these products present, Overlay on those the awkwardness of dealing with a version of Windows optimized for neither the size nor speed of such a device.

Still, such frustrations have not discouraged other contenders from trying to claim the title of the worlds smallest Windows PC. Spare me the recycled vision of the Tablet PC; this embryonic category is the most interesting thing to happen to PC hardware since the laptop (or at least the ill-fated Panda Project Archistrat). For the first time in decades, there are new entrants taking unique and divergent paths toward hardware design:



Vulcan Mini-PC

Sony PCG-U101

Form Factor






4.1" x 2.9" x 0.9"

5.9" x 4" x 1.2"

5.4" x 4" x 1.1"

7" x 5.5" x 1.3"


<9 oz.

20 oz.

Approx. 16 oz..

1.94 lbs.


"Up to 1 GHz" Crusoe TM5800

300 MHz Geode


600 MHz Mobile Celeron


256 MB

256 MB

256 MB

256 or 512 MB

Hard Disk

15 GB

15 GB

20 GB

30 GB


4" touchscreen

4" touchscreen at 640 X 480

5.8" screen at 800 X 480

7.1" screen at 1024 X 768, ATI Mobility Radeon-M

Ports and Slots

USB 1.1, 1394

USB 1.1, IR, PC Card,. SD Card

USB 2.0

USB, 1394. Memory Stick


Wi-Fi, Bluetooth




  • Vulcan, which appears poised to undercut the Japanese Vaio in size by at least an inch in both height and width, has stayed true to the clamshell form factor. However, its small size may make using it standing up more practical. It will even take advantage of the latest wide-screen trend in notebooks, delivering 800 X 480 pixel resolution on a 5.8" screen.

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