A couple of years ago, with the introduction of Windows Mobile 2003 in the spring, the summer was an unusually busy time for Pocket PC releases.
Some great models were released during that time, like the iPAQ h1940 and the Axim X3.
It was so busy, in fact, that we declared it be the “Summer of Pocket PC.”
Almost the same thing happened again in 2004. After the springtime debut of Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, a wagonload of New Handhelds came out, especially from HP.
Unfortunately, these were somewhat unusual situations, and it appears that this year we’re reverting to normal.
What You’d Expect
Summer is typically a pretty slow time in the handheld industry.
Companies aren’t buying because many of their employees are on vacation, and consumers tend to wait for back-to-school and the holiday shopping season, both still months away.
Also, handheld makers are aware that lots of people get New Handhelds as graduation gifts or as Father’s Day presents, and therefore release their new devices in the spring.
Therefore a device that comes out in the summer is either too early or too late.
It’s sad for me to say, but at this point there aren’t any signs of new Pocket PCs being announced for several months.
If there was anything close to release, some hint of it would have slipped out by now. Handheld makers just aren’t that good at keeping their upcoming products a secret.
Sure, some devices that have already been announced will be hopefully available for the first time this summer, like the Samsung i730, but we’ve known about this device since last year.
It’s just that we can’t expect a boatload of new models to be introduced, as happened in the two previous years.
Well, Why Not?
There are, I believe, two reasons why this is happening, on top of the typical summer slowdown.
For one, it appears that the two biggest Pocket PC makers, HP and Dell, are sticking with most of their current models, not replacing them, which is why these devices are getting Windows Mobile 5.0 upgrades.
This is good news for those who already have a recent iPAQ or Axim, but bad news for those who are looking forward to something else.
The outline of Dell’s handheld plans that was recently leaked to Brighthand indicated that the Axim X50v will continue to be this company’s top model until this fall, when it will introduce its first Axim with a built-in hard drive.
The situation is less clear with HP, but I believe that Windows Mobile 5.0 is finally going to make the iPaq hx4700 the device it should have been in the first place, and HP will see no need to replace it.
And, speaking of Windows Mobile 5.0, this is the other thing I think is preventing new models from being released this summer.
Although Microsoft, with great fanfare, has officially announced the next version of this operating system, it doesn’t seem ready for prime time yet.
I believe the announcement was timed so it could be made at the MEDC developers conference, not because Windows Mobile 5.0 was actually about to reach users’ hands.
Not that there’s anything wrong with this. Developers need time to get their applications ready for the new version, and making the announcement at the DevCon is a good way to jump start this process.
If Not Now, When?
I’m taking my clue for when the first Windows Mobile 5.0 devices will hit the market from when companies are saying they’ll have OS upgrades for current devices out: late summer.
I know the long wait is going to be tough for me, and I expect for a lot of you, as some of the upcoming devices look very interesting.
The HTC Universal, the first cellular-wireless Pocket PC with a VGA screen and a clamshell design, has my fingers itching.
And I want to find out more about Dell’s upcoming Axim with a built-in microdrive, even though it won’t hit the market until this fall.
However, if you need a new Pocket PC and have been waiting to see what Windows Mobile 5.0 models are going to be announced, you need to be aware that the wait is going to be several months.
If you need something in the near future, I’d say your best choice is to pick one of the current models that’s definitely going to get a Windows Mobile 5.0 upgrade, as nothing new is going to be available until late this summer.