Compaq Updates Its Popular Handheld

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Compaq Updates Its Popular Handheld
by Arik Hesseldahl, Forbes.com, 10.08.01, 10:00 AM ET

NEW YORK – When the first iPaqs hit the market, they didn’t last long on store shelves. Those who wanted one often had to wait months until they were available again.

Compaq Computer’s (nyse: CPQnewspeople) problem was that it couldn’t get enough of the small color TFT screens to make them. The company tried to solve the problem by launching a version of the iPaq that was essentially the same, but had a grayscale screen instead. It didn’t make impatient consumers happy, but soon the supply problem loosened up and demand slackened.

If you’re among those who wanted one, but never got it, then now may be the time to take a second look. Compaq last week added two new models to the product line, the H3800 and the H3700.

Compaq’s iPaq H3800: Shorter lines this time?
At the top of the line is the new 3800 series, which includes a slot for Secure Digital memory cards, commonly called SD cards. These stamp-sized bits of flash memory are quickly becoming the floppy disks of the 21st century. They showing up in all types of gadgets, ranging from handhelds to music players and even some notebook PCs. The iPaq takes advantage of the disks by letting you use them for backing up your data and swapping files with other devices. And you can add either 64 or 128 megabytes of additional memory as you need it.

One model in the 3800 line, the H3870, also boasts integrated Bluetooth wireless networking capabilities, which lets you quickly share data with other Bluetooth-ready devices, like printers, PCs and other PDAs. The 3800s all come standard with 65,000-color TFT screens and 64 megabytes of memory.

The 3700 line rounds out the lower end of the new iPaq offerings. Basically, the TFT screen is a little less fancy–with only 4,000 colors–and it comes with either 32 MB or 64 MB of memory, depending on the model.

Compaq also announced details about an interesting add-on for the iPaq, which it calls the wireless pack. Essentially it’s a slide-on attachment that goes on the back of the handheld, allowing you to use the device like a tri-band GSM wireless phone which will work on networks around the world. But it also supports GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) that acts like an always-on Internet connected device. E-mail can show up as readily as it does on your office PC and access to Web is just as simple. Currently in testing, the wireless pack add-on won’t ship until December.

But the new iPaqs are shipping before that; the H3700 series should be available this week for about $500. The H3800 models should follow in November, starting at about $600, and at about $650 for the H3870 including Bluetooth. Maybe the lines will be shorter this time.

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