Compaq will next month launch Aero, its first palmtop PC, to rival Hewlett-Packard's first colour palmtop (see PC Week, 19 January).
No details have been made public, but sources close to the company said the Aero will be priced at around #400. It will also come with a high-quality colour screen and 8Mb of RAM, upgradeable to 32Mb.
Neil Dagger, product manager at Compaq, revealed: "It has all the PalmPilot has and more. There will be two models plus a range of accessories. We estimate the battery life to be two to three weeks, based on 30 minutes use per day."
Aero will be aimed at mobile professionals, though the company is also hoping for strong sales from the consumer market. Dagger described the screen as "amazing", claiming this would be a strong selling point for customers.
Martin Reynolds, analyst at Dataquest, agreed, noting that the colour screen and wider variety of applications could now tip the balance in favour of Windows CE machines and away from the dominant PalmPilot.
"The screen is so attractive from a user point of view. As soon as you see a colour screen on a PDA you wonder why you ever wanted a PalmPilot," he said.
The Aero will also come with an infra red wireless capability, docking cradle with battery charger, Lithium Ion battery, record and play capability and external speaker.
Competitors will include products from Sharp and Casio, as well as HP's Jornada 420, due out around the same time as the Aero. IBM is also believed to have considered selling a similar product.
Some time this quarter, 3Com will release the Palm III X, a new version with a more legible screen, 4Mb RAM and basic synchronisation with Outlook.
Prices will also be cut on existing models at that time.
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