CNET.com By David Carnoy, Colin Duwe, and Darren Gladstone Microsoft introduces three new Pocket PC units with cellular functionality, while Sharp woos the open-source crowd by unveiling a Linux-powered handheld. And more hardware turns up for DataPlay’s dirt-cheap 500MB Storage discs. 1. Microsoft’s Pocket PC 2002 line At this year’s show, in a somewhat expected move, Microsoft unveiled three Pocket PC devices that incorporate cell-phone functionality. Following the lead of Palm-powered phones, Pocket PC 2002 will power wireless handhelds from HP, Audiovox, and HTC (the company that makes iPaq PDAs for Compaq). Microsoft wouldn’t say exactly when the devices would arrive in the United States, but all three devices are scheduled to make their overseas debuts by mid-2002. We got a look at the devices and were generally impressed by what we saw. The HP and HTC handhelds run on GSM/GPRS networks (Cingular, AT&T, and VoiceStream), while the Toshiba-made Audiovox device runs on CDMA networks (Sprint PCS, Verizon) and is 3G compatible. The three devices aren’t much bigger than their nonwireless counterparts, and all offer expansion slots for adding memory cards. As far as specs go, expect to see ROM and RAM configurations that are similar to those of existing Pocket PC 2002 PDAs, with 32MB of RAM being the base configuration. At the show, Microsoft also announced that its cell-phone operating system–formerly known as Stinger–has been officially named Smartphone 2002. Though the company gave no new details about Smartphone 2002, Microsoft representatives said that devices based on the OS would be released by the spring of this year. More in Handhelds 2. Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 Sharp’s Linux-powered Zaurus SL-5500 handheld looks like it’s shaping up to be an excellent competitor to Palm and Pocket PC. Its hardware specs are comparable to those of Pocket PCs, including an Intel StrongARM processor, 32MB of ROM, and 64MB of RAM, and it has a very nice, 16-bit, reflective LCD. But unlike its rivals, this model has a built-in thumb keyboard hidden beneath the sliding directional pad below the screen. And unlike other companies in the Linux-PDA arena, Sharp appears to have motivated quite a few software developers to create consumer-friendly applications for the hardware. In addition to the usual address book, calendar, and sync features, we were able to use a Microsoft Word-compatible text editor, an Excel-compatible editor, and a PowerPoint viewer. We also watched very smooth video on the Zaurus using a Java-based video player. The Zaurus will be available in the United States within the next three months for around $550. 3. Now Evolution video player If James Bond were looking for a quick way to catch a flick midmission, he’d likely go with Now Evolution’s new video player, which lets you enjoy Web-quality video on a device that’s roughly the size of a StarTAC cell phone. Powered by Windows CE 3.0, the Now Evolution Motion Picture Player can play back MP3s, MPEG-1, MPEG-4, and Windows Media files. The slim design accommodates an MMC/SD card slot, but the real potential comes from the clip-on DataPlay drive. Imagine being able to buy a 500MB DataPlay disc for $5 or $6 and listen to music or watch movie clips on the small but relatively sharp, 2.5-inch LCD. It will come with 64MB or 128MB of internal memory, and its built-in microphone will let it double as an voice recorder for audio memos. It is set to come out by mid-2002, and though the price point hasn’t been firmly nailed down yet, it may cost around $800.