Hewlett-Packard has finally taken the wraps off its much-anticipated multi-mode wireless PDA. With a September debut penciled in, the device, known as the iPaq h6340 in Europe and in slightly modified form as the h6315 in the US, looks set to be the first to test new ground in multi-mode wireless PDAs…
The introduction of the h6340/h6315, a fairly conventional PDA with cellular antenna, marks a return by HP to the market for cellular wireless-equipped PDAs it abandoned early last year when its Jornada 928 model was phased out.
But the voice-capable h6340 adds built-in 802.11b WLAN and Bluetooth connectivity alongside quad-band GSM/GPRS in a device that will sell for about GBP480 ($882). The companion h6315, exclusively for T-Mobile in the US, also includes a built-in digital camera although this was left out of the European versions for reasons of corporate security, or potential abuses thereof. Both are based on Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 2003 Pocket PC Phone Edition software.
At the time of its withdrawal, HP described the previous Jornada 928 to ComputerWire as a failed experiment. However, Neil Dagger, HP’s iPaq and wireless devices business manager for the UK and Ireland was keen to set the record straight. He said HP had learned important facts about such devices from the Jornada 928 that aided the development of the h6340/h6315, notably that users wanted wireless LAN access.
We attempted to address the way in which h6340 worked technically. [The Jornada 928] may not have been everything we hoped it would be. But the user feedback we got was still useful to understand what people wanted, he said.
The absence of a digital camera in the European version of the device comes as little surprise. Integrated digital cameras in PDAs and mobile handsets have rapidly become an issue for enterprises prompting HP rival PalmOne to recently introduce a camera-less version of its Treo 600 smart phone for Verizon Wireless in the US.
In Europe, enterprise customers would not have appreciated it. It would have ruled out a lot of corporate customers, said Dagger. The European device will sell mainly through HP’s usual channels, primarily as a means of avoiding secondary mobile operator certification, he said.
According to Dagger, the all-important battery life of the h6340/h6315 has not been compromised despite the multi-radio format. Battery life would have been a problem had we not put a souped-up battery in it. You’ll see there are very few compromises in the h6340, he said.
Other functions in the h6340/h6315 include a roaming client, for when users move into areas of different network coverage. It is unclear whether this was developed in house by HP or was provided by a specialist vendor such as Birdstep Technologies.
A September debut for the h6340/h6315 could make it the first mobile device with fully integrated tri-mode wireless to reach the market and it has been hailed as the first of a series of multi-mode wireless PDAs from HP. Motorola’s MPx, Nokia’s Communicator 9500 and High Tech Computer’s variously named MDA III/XDA 3 look set to follow in the fourth quarter, in what is set to prove a tough testing ground for multi-mode wireless handheld computers.