Samsung, ViewSonic Partner With Microsoft

Hardware alliances target corporations, home users.

Microsoft Corp. has formed two new mobile hardware partnerships, one aimed at cost-conscious corporate customers and the other at cutting-edge consumers.

The Redmond, Wash., company has teamed with Samsung Semiconductor Inc. to develop a design for inexpensive handheld computers based on Microsofts Pocket PC operating system, officials said last week.

Devices based on the design will include the Samsung ARM3-based S3C2410 application processor running at 200MHz, a 3.5-inch gray-scale or color display, multimedia capabilities, and Secure Digital and Secure Digital I/O expansion slots.

To date, Palm Inc., of Milpitas, Calif., has dominated the market for low-cost handheld devices, with customers saying they went with Palm primarily for the price.

"It seems that Pocket PC only runs on the higher-end devices," said Vincent Bray, a strategic research manager at Toyota Financial Services, a division of Toyota Motor Corp. in Torrance, Calif., who carries a Palm device.

"Im not going to pay extra for extra features I dont need, but if the price is right I might switch," Bray said.

Officials at Samsung, in San Jose, Calif., said the target price for the device is less than $200, but licensees have yet to be announced.

Meanwhile, ViewSonic Corp., based in Walnut, Calif., last week announced that the company has developed a wireless monitor using Microsofts Smart Display technology.

Previously known under its code name, Mira, the idea behind a Smart Display monitor is that it can communicate with a PC via an 802.11b wireless connection.

Users can surf the Web and navigate the computer with a stylus using the monitors touch-screen, but it should not be confused with the more complex Tablet PC operating system, which Microsoft announced the previous week.

"Our goal is to extend the computing experience in the home," said Megan Kidd, product manager in the Embedded and Appliance Platforms Group at Microsoft.

ViewSonics Smart Display comes in two sizes. The Airpanel V110 measures 10.4 inches and costs $999; the Airpanel V150 measures 15 inches and costs $1,299.

They are slated to be available in the first quarter of next year.