Two Roads Diverge for Three New Handhelds

If you need a handheld gadget only to remember addresses, birthdays, grocery lists and the other easily forgotten minutiae of daily life, the computer industry solved your problem about five years ago.

Ever since, it has been figuring out what other problems it can solve that might draw you to invest in fancier hardware. Color screens to display photos and graphics — say, maps of New York City’s sprawling subways or the District’s cryptic taxi zones — were one obvious addition, as was digital-music playback.

But what else? A crop of new Palm OS 5-based handhelds outline two paths. PalmOne’s $149 Zire 31 brings the price of a color screen and music playback to its lowest point ever, while the former Palm Inc.’s $299 Zire 72 and Sony’s $300 Clie PEG-TJ37 focus on new features — digital cameras, wireless networking and Internet software.

To a gadget hound, the Zire 31 is the least interesting model of the bunch. It’s basically last year’s Zire 21 with a color screen, SD Card slot and headphone jack — plus the improved calendar, contacts, tasks and memo software from last fall’s Tungsten E and Tungsten T3.

News source: WashingtonPost


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