Software giant Microsoft is to hook up with the semiconductor arm of Samsung Electronics to sell a blueprint design for inexpensive handheld computers.
Announcing the plans, the companies said the reference design, which is a ready-to-use kit including chips, software and display, should allow any electronics manufacturer to produce a low-cost version of a handheld PC.The two giants are hoping the devices will compete with similar products already on the market, most notably the new entry-level personal digital assistant (PDA) from Palm, which is retailing at US$99.
At the moment high-end colour screen PCs can cost as much as US$700. The products based on the new design would be priced at US$300, or less, for a colour screen handheld version. Design for a device with a greyscale display will also be sold.
“Mobile device manufacturers can take advantage of low-cost concept designs to bring their products to market quickly and at competitive price points,” said Juha Christensen, corporate vice-president for the Mobile Devices Division at Microsoft. “By collaborating with Samsung, we ensure a more rapid development process so that hardware manufacturers can include industry-leading multimedia and broader wireless functionality in computing devices such as Pocket PCs and smart phones.”
The announcement is being seen by industry experts as a rearguard action by Microsoft to fight Palm’s dominance in the handheld market. At the moment Palm reigns supreme in the market for PDAs with 48pc of devices running on its software.
Microsoft-based devices have a 30pc share — approximately twice that of a year ago.
PDA sales growth, however, has slumped over the last year and a half, with consumers and businesses slow to invest in expensive new devices, which also need a lot of IT support.
The cheaper PDAs based on Microsoft and Samsung’s designs will also be competing with other Pocket PCs already available from NEC and Toshiba.
No details of customers for the new design have been announced.
By Suzanne Byrne