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COMDEX: Dell backs PDA over Tablet PC

Handheld launches, but PC maker holds fire on Microsoft's latest concept

Dell has finally launched its long-awaited PDA, the Axim Pocket PC, at the Comdex expo in Las Vegas. But it's putting its money behind this portable device rather than following the Tablet PC route propounded by Microsoft.

The Axim starts at just $199 (£127), after a $50 (£32) mail-in rebate, for a 300MHz XScale version with 32MB RAM. For users wanting a bit more oomph, there's also the $299 (£190) 400MHz, 64MB RAM flavour available, after the same mail-in rebate. As yet UK pricing hasn't been set, but a Dell spokesperson said she expected it to be "cheaper than the competition". UK launch is slated for early 2003.

While you have to applaud Dell for producing such a reasonably priced unit, the device itself feels noticeably chunky compared to devices such as Toshiba's e310.

The Axim matches the crowd for expandability, with one Type II CompactFlash slot at the top and an SD (secure digital) slot tucked round the side. There's no wireless connectivity — apparently it wasn't considered for this model, but for now it's down there on the future roadmap.

When asked whether this product line expansion would stretch to the Tablet PC format, however, the answer was a firm no. There is the distinct possibility of Dell offering third-party tablets for sale in the US — the names ViewSonic and Motion Computing were dropped — but it’s not going to enter the fray itself for the foreseeable future.

By its estimates, the worldwide market for Tablet PCs is a paltry 600,000 units for the coming year – too small a number for Dell to even consider getting out of bed for.

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