Five suppliers will show off their CE devices at this week's Comdex show in Las Vegas, unleashing a potentially vicious battle on pricing and features.
The models from Compaq, Philips, NEC, Hewlett Packard and Casio all feature Microsoft's Windows CE cut-down operating system, 2Mb of Ram expandable to 4Mb plus 4Mb of Rom, and full keyboard, 408 x 540 monitor and pen.
Of the three chip designs on which Windows CE can run - Mips R4000, Intel and Hitachi SH3 - Hitachi is being used by Compaq and Casio, and Mips by the other three.
No vendor is yet adopting the Intel platform, perhaps because CE devices require lower energy chips, suggested one observer. This shows a surprising willingness to consider alternatives to Intel processors for personal computers.
The Compaq machine is priced at $550 with 2Mb of Ram and $750 with 4Mb.
Philips' Velo 1 has a similar price range (provisionally $599 to $739) but the top model includes a battery pack.
Philips is also the only vendor to offer a standard 19.2Kbps modem and fax support, and a docking bay-style device for easier connection to the PC. The Philips machine runs on the Risc 3910 processor, a Mips derivative.
The unique feature of the Hewlett Packard version of the CE will be a larger screen, but this cannot ship until mid-1997 when the next release of the operating system, which will support higher resolution monitors, is available.
Casio is working with Compaq, and will manufacture Compaq's CE, although its own badged version will differ. NEC's CE will run on its own chip, also a derivative of Mips.
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