Top Stories in Handheld Computing: 2000

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The Y2K bug may have died in its cocoon, but for the handheld computer industry the year 2000 was filled with excitement. Here are five of the top events that shaped this truly landmark year.

1. Palm and Handspring go public

Palm Inc. finally broke away from 3Com, punctuating its independence with a new logo and a new name: Palm Inc. Palm’s stock, which was initially offered at $38 a share, rode the high-tech rollercoaster during 2000, rising above $160 a share when it first debuted in March before settling back below $30.

Handspring also jumped on the high-tech IPO gravytrain in 2000 and its stock has paralleled Palm’s path, climbing above $100 a share before descending to the mid-$30 level.

2. Pocket PC debuts

In 2000, Microsoft and its three manufacturing licensees — Casio, Compaq, and Hewlett-Packard — released new PDAs based on the highly-anticipated new version of Microsoft’s Windows CE operating system, re-christened Pocket PC. The hottest of the new Pocket PCs was the Compaq iPAQ Pocket PC, released in mid-June. Consumer demand for the iPAQ, with its 206-megahertz processor and unique Expansion Pack technology, has been phenomenal, exceeding Compaq’s manufacturing capacity.

3. Palm and Handspring release color PDAs

Palm and Handspring entered the world of color handhelds in 2000 with the release of the Palm IIIc and Visor Prism, respectively. The Palm IIIc debuted to mixed reviews and sluggish sales, and the Visor Prism became Handspring’s largest and most expensive PDA to date. But for Palm and Handspring the devices were more proofs of concept and a word of warning to other device makers that, yes, Palm and Handspring can do color, too.

4. Sony enters PDA market

Sony joined in the PDA fray in September with the release of its Clie handheld computer. The Palm OS-based Clie became the first PDA to utilize Sony’s proprietary Memory Stick technology, however, by year end there were still no Memory Stick peripherals available for the Clie. And while the device was exceptionally light and thin, it did not include the multimedia features most industry analysts expected from Sony. Also, due to parts shortages, Sony was only able to release a monochrome device to the U.S. market.

5. Sub-$150 organizer lifts Palm

In August, Palm released the m100, a sub-$150 PDA targeted at students. The contoured device featured colorful changeable face plates, a la the popular Nokia cell phones, and a flip-cover. It was an instant success and became Palm’s saving grace in 2000, grabbing back the marketshare it had lost to Handspring earlier in the year.

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