Motherboard firms rush to make PDAs

By Alfred Lee, The China Post

Nearly all of Taiwan’s personal computer motherboard makers are moving aggressively into the PDA field as motherboard production is no longer profitable.

The three leading motherboard producers introducing their new PDAs at the Computex Taipei 2001 are ASUSTek Computer Inc., Micro-Star International Co., Ltd., and EliteGroup Computer Systems Co., Ltd.

All these companies claimed that mass production of their PDA lines would begin this month.

All the PDA makers are introducing products with more sophisticated functions. AUSTek showcased its handheld PC and PDA at the show. Its handheld PC is designed with Bluetooth, Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM), and CDMA (code-division multiple access) functions. ASUSTek’s handheld PC will be exported to South Korea on an ODM arrangement. ASUSTek’s PDA is designed to provide GPRS (General Packet Radio Services) or GSM functionality for wireless communication.

Both the pocket PC and PDA being made by ASUSTek are built with Intel’s StrongARM processor and Flash memory. Both the pocket PC and PDA of ASUSTek are designed to operate under Windows CE version 3.

EliteGroup unveiled its low-cost PDA – EPD30, which is priced at less than US$200. Elite officials said the company achieved low-cost production due to its advantage in volume purchase of key components.

The high-end model by Elite is its EPD50 with MP3 functionality. This model will be first marketed in Taiwan. However, the production of EliteGroup’s PDAs will be moved to mainland China. Mass production of this model will begin in July. Micro-Star’s new PDAs, EZ-NOW, are designed to run with its own operating system or Windows CE operating system. Its PDA can be configured to process English, traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese characters, making it easy to market in mainland China. The advanced PDA model will be built with a low-temperature color display panel. Universal Scientific Industrial Co., Ltd. displayed a PDA with built-in Bluetooth functions for wireless communication. Its PDA is designed to operate under Windows CE supporting a wide range of application software. Mass production will begin in the fourth quarter of this year.

In addition to motherboard makers, nearly every notebook PC maker is moving into PDA. MiTac is introducing several PDA models at the show.

Compal Electronics, Inc. introduced its wireless-ready pocket PC with a silver color housing. The CPU is 206MHz Intel StrongArm RISC (reduced instruction set processor). The memory is 32 RAM and 16 MB ROM. The display is reflective active matrix TFT with a resolution of 240 x 320 that can display 64K colors.

The input/output capabilities of the its PD-600C suports one type 2 PCMCIA slot (3.3 V and 5V ready), one USB data transfer port, irDA, serial, microphone, speaker, and audio out ports. Its battery is 155mA Li-ion rechargeable battery lasting 8 to 10 hours. AOpen Inc., an affiliated company of Acer Inc., will introduce PDA next year.