September 29, 2002 9:00 PM PDT

ViewSonic joins Pocket PC ranks

ViewSonic will join the growing number of handheld licensees of Microsoft's Pocket PC 2002 operating system.

Microsoft will announce on Monday that Walnut, Calif.-based ViewSonic will become the 29th licensee of its handheld operating system. ViewSonic will offer a $299 device, the V35 Pocket PC, starting Nov. 1.

The 4.9-ounce device will come with a 300MHz Intel XScale PXA250 processor, 32MB of memory, a 3.5-inch transflective color screen and a Secure Digital expansion slot. The V35 will also come with Microsoft PowerPoint file viewer and digital imager viewer applications.

One of the major hurdles for Microsoft and manufacturers of Pocket PC 2002-based devices was the high price of the handhelds compared with those from rival Palm and its OS licensees. The devices had many high-end features supported by the OS, such as color screens, built-in audio players and voice recorders, which require more memory and a beefier processor.

Analysts have said that high prices have kept the Pocket PC-based handhelds from the biggest segment of the market: consumers. However, with the ViewSonic device--and other gear that will fall in the same price range and are due out by the end of the year--the Pocket PC OS has the potential to grow its share of the market.

"When we got into software for handhelds we made a bet that component costs would come down, and while it was initially an obstacle, we're now able to attack the low and midlevel price ranges," said Ed Suwanjindar, a Microsoft spokesman.

A year ago, a similar device would have cost between $500 and $600, but according to ViewSonic general manager Tom Offutt, ViewSonic's position as a display company helped to bring down the cost of the device.

"One of our major advantages is that this is a display-based product, and we're a leading display company," Offutt said.

ViewSonic will also offer a Tablet PC device using Microsoft's operating system.

 

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