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"3COM Palm's Receive Serious Challenge"

The Palm organizer has some serious competition, and it comes from the same people who designed the original Palm. The most exciting feature of the new Handspring Visor, a $250 Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), is a special slot for plug-and-play hardware and software upgrades.

The internals of the Visor Deluxe bear a striking resemblance to Palm organizers. The Visor Deluxe is based on the same processor and operating system as the current Palm devices; a 16-MHz Motorola Dragonball EZ processor running the Palm OS 3.1. Like Palm units, the Visor unit includes an infrared port for beaming information to and from other Palm OS organizers; the same, improved reverse-backlit LCD touch screen used on the latest Palm models and a docking station. The Visor has a USB connector instead of a serial connector that is used on the Palm devices. In addition, the Visor also comes with a microphone but has no speakers or headphone jack.

The most obvious difference between the devices is the expansion slot on the back of the Visor. Called the Springboard, this plug-and-play slot lets you quickly add extras such as pagers, modems, MP3 players and Internet access programs to name just a few. To vault Springboard into the mainstream market, Handspring plans to license Springboard technology to other computer manufacturers and encourage third-party development of expansion modules.

Throw in the unit's built-in applications, compatibility with the wide array of Palm applications already out there, and additional color options and you have a PDA that is poised to give Palm organizers a run for their money.

This isn't the only additional competition for 3Com. Nintendo has recently announced plans for a new Game Boy system, the Game Boy Advance, that will let users send and receive e-mail, play networked games, and chat in real-time. Pricing is not yet available on this unit which is slated to ship next year.

  - by Clayton Crooks

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