Will pocket PC push Palm out of our hands?

Will pocket PC push Palm out of our hands?

Programmer Matt Osminer relies on his Windows CE-powered HP Jornada 430SE for everything from scheduling and note-taking to playing games and music, and he synchronises it all with Microsoft Outlook. Editor Judy Lewenthal turns to her Palm III to track her multiple deadlines and busy schedule.

They're typical handheld users. Osminer wants a tiny PC, while Lewenthal wants a digital organiser.

So far, more than 80 per cent of handheld customers are in Lewenthal's camp, voting with their pocketbooks for the Palm. Its name is synonymous with the market; even Microsoft and its hardware partners refer to `Palm-size PCs' in ads for devices that run Windows CE.

Microsoft expects to change that with the Windows Powered Pocket PC, which is its newest weapon in the handheld wars and a successor to Windows CE devices. But does the 800-pound gorilla of software really understand what people want in a handheld - and how to snatch leadership from Palm Computing?

The Pocket PC concept made its debut at January's Consumer Electronics Show. Microsoft is coy about releasing details, but it will bundle some applications, notably Windows Media Player and Microsoft Reader, which uses ClearType technology for better screen resolution.

Hardware vendors who promise to make sleek new Pocket PC units include Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, Casio, and Siemens. Expect the first designs before midyear, Microsoft says.

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