Five suppliers will show off their CE devices at next week's Comdex show, unleashing a potentially vicious battle on pricing and features.
All the models, from Compaq, Philips, NEC, Hewlett-Packard and Casio, feature the Windows CE cut-down operating system and 2Mbytes of Ram expandable to 4Mbytes plus 4Mbytes of Rom, and offer full keyboard, 408x540 monitor and pen, but there the similarities end.
Of the three chip designs on which Windows CE can run - Mips R4000 and its derivatives, Intel and Hitachi SH3 - Hitachi is being used by Compaq and Casio and Mips by the other three. No vendor is yet adopting the Intel platform, perhaps because they require lower energy chips, suggested one observer. This indicates a surprising willingness, at least in the CE arena, to consider alternatives to Intel processors for personal computers.
The Compaq machine runs on the 40MHz Hitachi processor, although this is primarily 16-bit, except in the data path. Windows CE is a 32-bit operating system. The device runs on disposable batteries, and a battery pack can only be bought as a separate option. Features include infrared communications links, with a modem on the highest specification model only. The CE runs cut-down versions of Microsoft Excel, Word and Schedule applications but Compaq also offers synchronisation with desktop scheduling software including Lotus Organizer, Microsoft Outlook, and Sidekick. Tentative pricing is $550 with 2Mbytes of Ram and $750 with 4Mbytes.
Philips' Velo 1 has a similar price range ($599-$739, provisionally) but the top model includes a battery pack and the basic models offer several features not available in rival CEs. Philips is the only vendor to offer a standard 19.2Kbps modem and fax support, and a docking bay-style device for easier connection to the PC. Another key feature that may give Philips competitive edge is that it overcomes the one-card limitation of other CEs by including two half-sized PC card slots.
The Dutch manufacturer's implementation runs on the Risc 3910 processor, a Mips derivative.
The unique feature for Hewlett-Packard's version of the CE will be a larger screen, but this cannot ship until mid-1997 when the next release of the operating system, which will support monitors beyond 408x540, is available.
Casio is working with Compaq, and will manufacture Compaq's CE, although its own badged version will differ. NEC's CE will run on its own chips, also a derivative of Mips.
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