Hewlett Packard (HP) has taken the wraps off one of the first devices to feature Pocket PC, Microsoft's latest handheld operating system.
Compaq, Casio and Symbol are all expected to launch similar devices based on the software today.
Later, in simultaneous events in London and New York, Microsoft will launch the updated version of its Windows CE operating system, with which it is aiming to take on handheld rival Palm.
Sally Lawlor, UK Jornada business development manager at HP, said the company wanted a change in design from previous versions of its Jornada products: "There is a significant improvement in what it looks like. Instead of plastic, it's made from metal alloy which is also durable," she said.
HP told vnunet.com that the casing for its Jornada 540 series was designed by the same company that created the silhouette of BMW's Z3 convertible car.
The Jornada 540 series is available in two versions: the 545, which comes with 16Mbytes of RAM, and the 548, which has 32Mbytes. Both products have a 240 x 320-pixel colour display, an industry standard Compact Flash Type 1 slot and a rechargeable lithium ion battery that lasts for around two weeks of average use.
Included in the box are a travel charger, USB cradle and a full suite of Microsoft Pocket PC applications including Outlook, Word, Excel, Money, Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player (supporting MP3 and WMA formats), e-book reader and a desktop version of Microsoft's Outlook 2000.
"Our customers want to do more than just calendar and contact management," said Lawlor. "The device is aimed more at individuals as it includes fun elements such as e-books and MP3 capabilities."
The range will be available in the UK from the second week of May. The 545 costs £369 including VAT and the 548 is priced at £439.
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