Sharp to Make 3G PDAs for NTT DoCoMo

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OSAKA, Japan (Reuters) – Japan’s top maker of personal digital assistants (PDAs), Sharp Corp, said on Wednesday it will supply handheld computers with third-generation (3G) wireless capabilities to NTT DoCoMo (news – web sites) Inc (9437.T).

During a news conference to announce a new multimedia version of its popular Zaurus line of PDAs, Sharp said the advanced 3G handheld computer will be sold under DoCoMo’s brand on an original equipment manufacturing basis.

Sharp has been under pressure to maintain its lead in Japan’s PDA market after electronics giant Toshiba Corp (6502.T) last month unveiled a beefed-up handheld computer for business users and NEC Corp (6701.T) said that it would unveil its first PDA by the end of the year.

“We are developing a 3G PDA for DoCoMo but can’t say when it will come out,” said Yoichi Sakai, Sharp’s corporate director and general manager of communication systems.

DoCoMo, Japan’s dominant mobile operator, has been running a trial 3G service that allows video, music and speedy Net access because of its fast transmission speeds. It is expected to become fully commercial on October 1.

Sharp’s multimedia version of the Zaurus allows users to play videos and games on top of the original model’s music-playing feature. The new MI-E21 Zaurus is also equipped with a SD Memory Card slot to expand the amount of data the PDA can store.

Sharp, which also makes mobile phones, did not clarify whether the wireless function on the yet-to-be unveiled 3G PDA would be self-contained or connected to a separate 3G device.

At present, PDAs sold in Japan do not have built-in wireless capabilities, and like the current Zaurus can only access mobile networks through a separate mobile communications card or via a cable attached to a mobile phone.

Sharp plans to start selling an overseas version of the current Zaurus in the United States in October and in Europe early next year, and aims to sell one million PDAs worldwide in the first year.

Sharp’s shares were down one percent on Wednesday at 1,381 yen but have fared better than other technology issues and the broader market.

Sharp is unchanged from the beginning of this year while Toshiba and NEC have lost about a quarter of their value and the Nikkei 225 average has slipped 17.3 percent.

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