Compaq hits a milestone, but what of the potential merger with HP?

2 MILLION iPAQS AND COUNTING
It's official: According to this press release (http://www.compaq.com/newsroom/pr/2002/pr2002042206.html), Compaq shipped its 2 millionth iPAQ last month. The company will hit the 3 million mark even faster—Compaq's sales were up 14 percent in this year's first quarter. Months ago, I said that Microsoft's Pocket PC 2002 initiative amounted to an admission on the part of Microsoft that Compaq "got the design right" with the iPAQ. Apparently, the broad market agrees. Features that the iPAQ introduced—including a daylight-readable transflective display, a fast 200MHz ARM processor, and field-upgradable flash ROM—are now standard. Compaq is reaping the benefits of getting that combination right 2 years ago.

While I'm offering congratulations to Compaq, I have one serious concern: Assuming the Hewlett-Packard (HP)/Compaq merger (which is still in doubt for legal reasons) goes through, the new company will have two complete sets of Pocket PC 2002 devices: the Compaq iPAQ and the HP Jornada 5xx PDA line. Offering two completely separate Pocket PC product lines won't be in the new company's best interest. I've always liked the Jornadas, but the market has clearly spoken in favor of the iPAQ design. I found the iPAQ design radical at first, but it grew on me—and evidently it's grown on many other people.

On the one hand, I hope HP reinforces Compaq's success and focuses its mobile resources on the iPAQ. Such a focus will undoubtedly be difficult—in Europe, HP just released the Jornada 928, which offers built-in Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM)/General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) support.

On the other hand, I hope HP retains its outstanding Jornada Handheld PC (H/PC) devices. For years, I've been a fan of the H/PC form factor, and although I prefer NEC's MobilePro (which has a slightly larger keyboard), the Jornada H/PC certainly has its fans.

I heard from a Jornada H/PC fan last week, when UPDATE reader Bryce Stenberg responded to my request for suggestions about new Pocket PC features. Bryce's suggestion is "Pocket PC 2002 for H/PCs," which I think is a fine idea. The most recent update to the H/PC version of Windows CE dates back to 2000. Numerous Pocket PC 2002 features—including VPN support—are still missing from the H/PC version of Windows CE, and the UI is overdue for revision.

On a personal note: I'll be off for the next 2 weeks, taking a long-overdue vacation in Maui. Steve Milroy will fill this space while I'm gone. Aloha!