Dell is offering a software patch today for a glitch in its version of Pocket PC 2003 software, which can cause a "significant performance degradation" in multimedia applications on two Axim handheld computers sold with the operating system in June and early July.
Dell spokeswoman Anne Camden said that the glitch - which Dell first became aware of on 11 July - does not affect the operation of "everyday productivity applications such as Word." But when users attempt to run multimedia files, audio "can be out of sync with video, and the video drops frames", she said.
Camden stressed that the software problem is not inherent in Microsoft's Pocket PC 2003 operating system but rather in Dell's configuration of the OS with its Axim hardware.
Dell sold Axims with the flawed operating system until 16 July, when it stopped taking orders. Only customers who bought hardware during that period will need the patch. Camden declined to specify the number of customers affected.
The patch is a large, 28MB file, and Camden said Dell will provide it on a CD to users within two to three weeks if they do not wish to download it.
Unlike other Pocket PC hardware companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell did not introduce new hardware in June when Microsoft introduced the latest version of the operating system. Instead, Dell offered customers with the old hardware an opportunity to buy the new OS for $29.
However, Dell was unable to process those orders because of an automated accounting software problem in its online ordering system. Dell will fix that Pocket PC 2003 software upgrade and offer it for sale within the next two or three weeks, Camden said.
IDC analyst Alex Slawsby said, "At most, the problems could have a short-term impact on sales."
Dell had 6.7% of the worldwide handheld market of 2.7 million units in the first quarter.
Bob Brewin writes for Computerworld