NEC recently announced that it will produce a Pocket PC 2002 device. This announcement is significant because although NEC has been making Windows CE-based MobilePro Handheld PCs (larger devices with keyboards) since the CE 1.0 days, the company has avoided the smaller Pocket PC form factor. The new NEC P300's features—a StrongARM processor and field-upgradeable ROM—are similar to other Pocket PCs' features. Like the Toshiba e570, the NEC P300 offers both CompactFlash (CF) and Secure Digital (SD) expansion slots; it can also function as a host for USB devices.

I've used several NEC MobilePro models for years; when I travel, a MobilePro 780 almost always goes with me (I've used it for so long that I've worn out the AC adapter). I'm excited about NEC's new product, which represents a vote of confidence in Microsoft's revised Pocket PC strategy; NEC has traditionally focused on the corporate market rather than end users. The Pocket PC 2002 feature set evidently has enough advantages to convince NEC to give the smaller form factor a try.

At the Pocket PC 2002 launch last month, Microsoft announced that additional vendors—including Acer, ETEN, Fujitsu, Inventec, Itautec, and O2 (formerly British Telecom's Cellnet division) will also produce Pocket PC 2002 devices.

Reader James Macdonald wrote to ask why I've ignored Intermec's 700 Series mobile computer. The reason: I didn't realize these products are Pocket PC 2002 devices! They certainly don't look like Pocket PCs. The devices are considerably larger (7.25" x 3.5" x 1.5") and heavier (16 ounces) than most Pocket PCs. The larger size provides room for a hardware-numeric touchpad below the display. Like the Symbol Pocket PCs I wrote about 2 weeks ago, InterMec's 700 Series computer is a rugged device for industrial use; it can operate at temperatures from -20 degrees to 60 degrees Celsius and survive a 4' drop onto a hard surface and exposure to rain and dust. The device has an internal (not user-accessible) type-II PC Card slot and a CF slot that supports 802.11 wireless Ethernet and several wireless WAN options (Bluetooth support is on the way). The device also supports an integrated laser-barcode scanner. InterMec doesn't publish prices; call the company for quantity pricing. Macdonald works for Naptheon, a spinoff from Newport News Shipbuilding's IT department, and says that he's deployed wireless Intermec devices in the warehouse environment for many years. Thanks for bringing this information to my attention.