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Microsoft, Viewsonic Team on Low-Cost PDA

Microsoft has teamed with display maker Viewsonic to release a new Pocket PC product, the Viewsonic V35, which will debut November 1. The V35 will cost just $300, a relatively low price for a Pocket PC device, and this seems to be its primary selling point. However, the V35 is entering a crowded market. Though the Pocket PC is surging, sales-wise, right now, there are almost 30 different Pocket PC models available from a variety of companies. So it's unclear how much of a market is available to Viewsonic, especially if other companies lower prices on more feature-laden models.

The Viewsonic V35 features pretty mundane specifications, with a 300 MHz XScale processor, a middling 32 MB of RAM, a 3.5 transflective screen for indoor and outdoor viewing, and a single Secure Digital (SD) expansion slot.

In addition to its Pocket PC device, Viewsonic will also unleash a Tablet PC in November running Microsoft's Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. Unlike the Pocket PC model, Viewsonic's Tablet PC should meet with a much wider range of success, thanks to the smaller number of competitors in that market and budding interest in Tablet PCs. In fact, I have to wonder if Viewsonic isn't jumping into the Pocket PC arena to please its partner Microsoft, in a manner similar to other Windows CE devices makers of the past, such as Philips and NEC, neither of which market pocket-sized devices based on Windows CE anymore, thanks to disappointing sales of previous models.

I suspect Viewsonic's biggest contribution to the Pocket PC market is that, if reasonably successful, the company's device will cause other companies to lower their own prices. Since most Pocket PCs sell for $500-600, this would be a boon to customers. But the sheer number of Pocket PCs out there, most with nearly identical specifications, can only confuse people.

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