Toshiba adds Wi-Fi and VoIP to PDAs

Toshiba has launched a version of its e800/805 Pocket PC personal digital assistant which incorporates integrated wireless...

Toshiba has launched a version of its e800/805 Pocket PC personal digital assistant which incorporates integrated wireless fidelity and voice over Internet Protocol software along with several different speech recognition applications and an enhanced display.

The three main PDA companies using Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003, formerly known as Pocket PC, in their products have now all upgraded their offerings in recent weeks with Wi-Fi chips and system processors made by Intel.

Last week Hewlett-Packard announced the iPaq h4150 and h4350 at the World Telecom 2003 conference in Geneva, and Dell unveiled its newest Wi-Fi Axim PDA.

Toshiba's commitment to the PDA market has appeared to waver over the past few quarters, said Todd Kort, an analyst with Gartner. The company released an upgrade to Windows Mobile 2003 for only one of its Pocket PC 2002 PDAs, the e750, a Toshiba spokeswoman said.

This angered Toshiba's corporate and consumer users who were unable to upgrade their older devices, Kort said.

HP's iPaqs are the market share leader among Pocket PC PDAs, but Dell has now assumed the role as the counterpart to HP in the Pocket PC market, Kort said. "Toshiba has been more negatively affected by Dell's entry into the market than anybody else," he said.

But Toshiba's latest devices show that the company is still putting effort into developing new designs and incorporating new technologies into its PDAs, Kort said.

Along with the $599 e800/805, Toshiba released the $299 e400/405 for users interested in a less-expensive PDA without Wi-Fi or VoIP capability.

The e800/805 device users to make phone calls over IP networks with VLI's VoIP software.

Toshiba increased the RAM in the e800/805 to 128Mbytes, one of the largest amounts of memory yet included on a PDA, Kort said. Many PC vendors ship their low-end desktops and notebooks with 128M bytes of Ram.

The company also put  a larger display on the e800/805. Its screen can support resolutions of 480 pixels by 640 pixels (VGA).

However, only one application on the e800/805 supports that resolution. The ClearVue software allows users to view enhanced PowerPoint presentations at the higher resolution. The display is also compatible with the more widely used 240-pixels-by-320 pixel resolution, but Toshiba expects more applications to be developed for the higher resolution in the future.

The e800/805 comes with an integrated 802.11b wireless chip to connect users to the internet. It also comes with a 400MHz PXA263 processor from Intel, 32Mbytes of Rom, 32Mbytes of Nand flash memory, and SDIO (Secure Digital I/O) and Compact Flash expansion slots. It measures 13.5cm long by 7.6cm wide by 1.7cm thick and weighs 190 grams.

The slightly smaller 400/405 series comes with a 300MHz PXA261 processor from Intel, 16Mbytes of Rom, 64Mbytes of Ram, 32Mbytes of Nand flash memory, a SDIO (Secure Digital I/O) slot, and a 3.5-inch display without the VGA graphics support.

Both models come with software that allows a user to access their calendar or contacts information with voice commands. Another text-to-speech application will read e-mail and other documents to the user.

The e400 and e800 models are available through Toshiba's website, as well as its traditional business channels. The e405 and e805 are retail models.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service

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