Dell, Palm Ready New PDAs

The PDA vendors keep churning out new handheld models, but at least one industry watcher wonders who will buy them.

Sources familiar with the two companies plans confirmed Friday that both Dell Inc. and Palm Inc. are readying new personal digital assistants, which could begin arriving as early as next week.

Dell, which is based in Round Rock, Texas, is expected to introduce an updated version of its Axim X50v that will offer optional VOIP (voice over IP) technology and run on Microsofts Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system.

Dubbed as the X51v, the devices dimensions will reportedly remain the same as Dells current X50v, which markets for $424, including a 3.7-inch display.

Industry watchers said the new PDA is also likely to retain the existing models 624MHz Intel Xscale processor.

The most significant additions to the X51v appear to be the shift to the latest Microsoft mobile OS, including the addition of the software makers Media Player 10 for mobile, and the optional VOIP software, which will reportedly let users make calls using a headset.

/zimages/2/28571.gifRead more here about Dells wireless plans.

The machine, which is rumored for introduction next week, will also offer the option to add Dells GPS navigation system with Bluetooth wireless technology.

Dell representatives did not immediately return calls seeking comment on the product.

For its part, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Palm is expected to unveil a replacement for its Tungsten T5 PDA, which will reportedly arrive sometime this fall.

Labeled as the Tungsten X, the device is expected to feature Palms Garnet 5.4.9 OS, along with a 312MHz Intel Xscale processor.

Other details of the X model include the same 320x480 pixel display featured in the T5, which retails for $349, along with new Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, a digital camera and a voice recording function.

Sources confirmed that Palm may also introduce a new addition to its Zire PDA line, the details of which remained unclear. Reached via phone, Palm representatives had no comment on future product plans.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more insight from columnist Jason Brooks about Palms product plans.

At least one industry watcher said that the two new devices could find homes with businesses using mobile workforce applications but openly questioned where the future of the PDA market is headed among consumers.

Martin Reynolds, analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner, said that consumers are increasingly looking to so-called smart phones, or wireless phones with PDA-like capabilities, rather than buying the larger devices.

/zimages/2/28571.gifTo read more about smart phones, click here.

"It seems like you rarely see anyone using a PDA anymore unless its for business, and it doesnt feel like the market is going to grow," Reynolds said.

"Consumers are driving convergence onto the smart phone platforms, because they want some of the calendar-type functionality of handhelds, but they dont want something larger than a phone in their pockets."

Reynolds said that devices that sit somewhere between popular mobile handset and PDA form factors, such as Research In Motions BlackBerry 7100 line, and offer many of the same features as smart phones, may continue to draw buyers, but he expects that many consumers will look for the smaller alternatives when there is something comparable available.

"People want voice, text and some calendar capabilities for the most part, but they arent looking at PDAs for that when a smart phone can do the same things," he said.

"Adding something like VOIP is interesting for Dell, but even that technology isnt ready for prime time, and these products are entering a market thats currently without a lot of energy."

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