Compaq rolls out new line of iPAQ devices

It used to be known as the most conservative of PC makers, but over the past year, Compaq has proven that it has a flair for product design, culminating this week with the release of a variety of iPAQ-branded devices. Aimed at broadening the reach and success of its iPAQ PCs and Pocket PC devices, the new line of iPAQ devices includes a personal audio player, a home Internet appliance, a home wireless networking solution, and a BlackBerry-based wireless email device. Compaq senior vice president Mike Larson says that the new line of iPAQ devices will enable a wireless, Internet-enabled lifestyle.

"Our customers share a desire to expand their access to the Internet and to the information they need in their daily lives, whether they're at work, at home or on the road," Larson said. "We're introducing the iPAQ family of products that redefine and expand Internet access, products that address new uses, new categories of users and new emerging markets."

The iPAQ Personal Audio Player PA-1 features 64 MB RAM, support for MP3 and Windows Media Audio formats, and a rugged iPAQ-themed design. It's expected to debut later this month for about $250. The iPAQ Home Internet Appliance--"Web in a box," as Compaq calls it--is an MSN Companion device that debuted last year at Fall Comdex. It will provide free updates over the Internet and give users simple access to email and the Web. Like a TV, it comes on immediately; it requires only two cords: One for power, one for the telephone connection. The Home Internet Appliance will cost $600 but customers can receive a $400 rebate if they sign up for three years of MSN Internet access: No doubt the rest of us will be using 2 Mb wireless connections by then. Compaq's iPAQ Connection Point is a wireless front-end to your home network, providing firewall security, and wireless Internet and network access over a dial-up or broadband connection. It will be available for about $500 within 60 days.

Compaq has also partnered with RIM to provide a Compaq-branded wireless email solution that fits in your hand. The iPAQ BlackBerry Wireless Email Solution (yes, that's the name) allows users to read, compose, forward, reply, delete, and manage email. And the devices are always on and always connected to the Internet. Prices start at about $400 with unlimited airtime service fees coming in at around $40 a month.

Previously, Compaq had expanded its iPAQ line--which started with the well-received iPAQ desktop systems--with a line of Windows CE-based Pocket PC devices. The iPAQ Pocket PC features a unique sleeve-based expansion system and the device has been in short supply since its release earlier this summer. Compaq says that it has ramped up production to over 50,000 units a month and the product continues to sell out immediately. Compaq's Pocket PC devices start at about $500

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