IBM is entering Jupiter's orbit with its announcement of the WorkPad z50, a 1.2kg Windows CE device with a Jupiter-class clamshell design.
The announcement from IBM expands its WorkPad product line - which currently includes the PalmPilot device running the Palm OS - while also continuing the segmentation of the mobile computing market by system vendors.
According to Van Baker, an analyst with Dataquest in California, the initial market segment targeted by the WorkPad z50 is the non-mobile professional needing to carry files and calendar information from meeting to meeting on campus.
Some IT professionals find that market segmentation for mobile products, ranging from a variety of handhelds to notebooks, is creating confusion rather more choices.
"With PDAs [personal digital assistants] and the whole mishmash of products, we don't know what the right strategy is," said an IT manager for a major Midwest manufacturer. "There is an increased demand [from our users] for more mobility, but what is the business case?" the IT manager said.
The Fortune 500 Midwestern company, which asked not to be identified, is limiting its mobile deployment to 15 per cent of all PCs in the company. "It's not defensible but it does control costs," the manager said.
Dataquest's Baker argues that the use of handhelds often results in increased worker productivity, particularly because the battery life for such devices is typically four times greater than notebooks.
The IBM WorkPad z50, for example, will run for about eight hours on a single charge and 16 hours with an optional high-capacity lithium-ion battery.
Baker cites the ability to work on coast-to-coast flights on one charge as an example of usability increasing productivity. The instant-on feature also makes these devices more available, he added.
And although IBM's new unit will be promoted as a companion device to a desktop PC, corporate users will have many of the same features they use on their notebooks.
The z50 will include IBM Mobile Connect, which synchronises with Lotus Notes Domino or Exchange server. It will also include a Citrix WinFrame client later this year.
In order to differentiate its product from other Jupiter-class systems such as Hewlett-Packard's Jornada, IBM has outfitted the z50 with a Type III PC Card slot for wireless radio or a new class of thicker modems that incorporate the connectors within the card itself.
The WorkPad z50 shipped in the US last week, priced at $US999.