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HP's GPS iPaqs double as PDAs

Travel Companion line to be released next month

Hewlett Packard showed off its iPaq rx5700 and rx5900 series Travel Companions, two navigation devices that double as high-end PDAs, in Paris yesterday. The devices will go on sale across Europe in mid-November, a week or two after their US launch, company officials said.

HP wants users to see the devices as GPS (global positioning system) terminals first, and PDAs (personal digital assistants) a strong second, said Jérémy Werner, iPaq product manager for HP France. That's why buttons to activate some of the PDA functions have been tucked away in a groove running around the side of the device, he said.

The high-end model will be known as the rx5935 in France. Its 2GB memory will hold a digital map of Western Europe and the TomTom 6.0 navigation software, leaving around 1.2GB free for users to store their data, Werner said. It can download map updates using its built-in 802.11g Wi-Fi interface. The rx5935 will sell for about €499 (£340) inc VAT.

The low-end module, called the rx5720 in France, has no Wi-Fi interface and only 1GB of memory. It will include a digital map of France, leaving about 600KB free for user data, Werner said. It will sell for about €399 (£270) inc VAT.

Both models have a Bluetooth interface, allowing them to connect to the internet through suitably equipped mobile phones, and run Microsoft's Windows Mobile 5.0 software. The device gives new meaning to finding a contact in your Outlook address book, Werner said: a link between Outlook and TomTom's software will help users navigate right to a friend's house.

Built-in software in the rx5935 makes use of the Wi-Fi connection to provide travellers with up-to-date exchange rates for the currency converter, and local weather forecasts for up to four days ahead, he said.

In France, the devices will help drivers who are breaking the speed limit by warning when they approach known police radar traps - while monitoring their actual speed and warning them if they go too fast. Speed is one of the biggest drivers for GPS sales in France, said Werner, because devices that detect the signals sent by radar traps are illegal in France, while GPS devices that warn of their locations are allowed.

HP is also showing the devices this week in London, Milan and Munich.


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