Hewlett-Packard Co. is back for Round 2 of the Pocket PC wars with its Jornada 560 Series, a combatant built around the processor, display, battery and memory technologies that last year earned the rival-for now at least-Compaq Computer Corp. iPaq 3600 an Analyst's Choice award.
The Jornada 560 is the first device to ship with Microsoft Corp.'s Pocket PC 2002 operating system, which is based on the same Windows CE 3.0 foundation as last year's Pocket PC but is now better-suited for the enterprise, with added features such as support for virtual private networks, strong passwords and network access to file shares.
Priced at $599 for a model with 32MB of RAM (a 64MB unit will sell for $649), the Jornada is overkill for users who require only basic personal information manager functions or for businesses deploying handhelds for simple data collection tasks. These more modest requirements can be fulfilled for much less cost than by a Palm OS-based or Research In Motion Ltd. device.
However, of the handhelds eWeek Labs has seen to date, the Jornada 560 comes closest to fulfilling the role of laptop replacement.
The Jornada 560, which is set to ship early next month, weighs 6.1 ounces, a definite improvement over the roughly 9-ounce Jornada 540 that preceded it. Like HP's previous Pocket PC device, however, the 560's expansion slot will not accommodate Type II CompactFlash cards and is limited to the slimmer Type I cards.
The other major hardware difference is the 560 Series' reflective thin-film-transistor 16-bit color display. Unlike the model it replaces, the 560 is readable in bright light.
The Pocket PC 2002 operating system and key applications of the Jornada 560 are stored in 32MB of software-upgradable flash ROM. We were glad to see Microsoft mandate the use of flash ROM for all Pocket PC 2002 devices, a move that will extend the life of the devices by opening the door for future operating system upgrades.
Similarly, all Pocket PCs will be powered by Intel Corp. StrongARM processors. We've been impressed with the performance of the StrongARM- powered iPaq, and we expect the emergence of a single processor across Pocket PCs to simplify software development and distribution.
The 560, along with the new Pocket PC-based devices that will follow it, includes a Windows Terminal Services client. This client will let companies serve applications to Pocket PC devices and will allow Windows XP users to access their desktops from the road via the handheld devices.
The client worked as advertised in our tests. However, don't expect to do more than make brief reference to desktop data or perhaps adjust a setting or two on a remote machine with it: The small screens common to handhelds make it tricky to accomplish much through Terminal Services.
The Jornada's lithium-ion battery will power the device for about 14 hours. This mileage will vary, of course, but we were pleased to see that the 560's battery is removable, which will allow users to swap in a spare.
Microsoft touts improved infrared contact exchange between new Pocket PCs and Palm devices, but we could complete transfers only from a Palm to the Pocket PC-not vice versa.
Pocket Internet Explorer has improved support for software downloads from the Web, but because most software downloads are compressed, we'd also like to see a file decompression utility make its way into the operating system.
The Inbox application now supports synchronization of subfolders-a common means of organizing messages that has kept many from using the e-mail synchronization feature of Pocket PC.