From the September 2000 issue of Startups

"One moment, please... let me check my schedule," you say as you whip out your Palm PC. No more ring binders for you. You have the whole world right in your hand. The selection of palmtops has grown since the original Apple Newton went the way of all obsolete hardware.

The handheld industry is heading for some fast advances. Microsoft is attempting to challenge Palm's 70 percent market share with its revamped operating system, dubbed Pocket PC. The new system corrects the compatibility problems of the original CE while adding features like the Windows Media Player. The Pocket PC's main advantage over Palm is its up to 65,536-color screen.

Palm is formulating its own strategy for advancement. They're creating a voice-activated handheld and making a move to faster processors (up to 200MHz vs. the current 20MHz). Future Palms should have boosted performance and capabilities without sacrificing Palm's battery-savvy edge over Pocket PC.

If you don't want to wait for the latest and greatest to wind its way to the shelves, there are several options already available. Palms generally cost less, have longer battery lives and are cross-platform. Pocket PCs feature colorful displays and tight Windows integration.

Compaq Ipaq H3600 Pocket PC

The Compaq iPAQ H3600 Pocket PC is loaded with features-it sports a voice recorder, a speaker and an ambient light sensor. A 206MHz processor and 32MB RAM power the H3600. Expansion packs include CompactFlash card ($39) and PC card ($149) connections. At the same price as the Hewlett-Packard Jornada 545 on the next page, the Compaq has more memory and a faster processor.

Manufacturer: Compaq
Model: iPAQ H3600 Pocket PC
OS: Pocket PC
Street Price: $499
Phone: (800) 345-1518
Web Site: www.compaq.com

CASIO E-115

At a street price of $599, the Casio E-115 is an expensive Pocket PC. It runs on a 131MHz processor and has 32MB RAM. The E-115 plays MP3s and video movies and comes with a built-in headphone jack. A CompactFlash slot expands your memory options. As with the Visor's Springboard slot, the Casio slot can also accept a special modem or digital camera card. But at $100 more than the Jornada 545 and Compaq iPAQ H3600, weigh price against expandability.

Manufacturer: Casio
Model: E-115
OS: Pocket PC
Street Price: $599
Phone: (800) 836-8580
Web Site: www.casio.com

Handspring Visor

The Visor is Handspring's basic gray model. It runs Palm OS, sports 2MB memory and runs for weeks on AAA batteries. Handspring's big selling point? Springboard modules. Sold separately, they snap into the back of the Visor. Modules currently available include a modem ($130), 8MB flash memory ($80), Tiger Woods Golf ($30) and the eyemodule digital camera ($150). The $179 Visor includes a USB cradle. If you don't need that, the Visor alone is $149. For another $70, you can step up to the memory-loaded, colorful Visor Deluxe..

Manufacturer: Handspring
Model: Visor
OS: Pocket PC
Street Price: $599
Phone: (888) 565-9393
Web Site: www.handspring.com

Palm IIIXE Handheld Computer

The Palm IIIxe Handheld Computer continues the Palm III line. The new version has 8MB memory and TCP/IP software that makes it Internet-ready. Unlike the Visor, the standard Palm hotsync cradle uses a serial port connection for PCs. For Macintosh, the USB Kit ($40) or Palm MacPac ($10) serial connection can be used.

Manufacturer: Palm
Model: IIIxe Handheld Computer
OS: Palm
Street Price: $249
Phone: (800) 881-7256
Web Site: www.palm.com

PALM IIIC Handheld

We're including two devices from Palm because the Palm IIIc is a different beast than the rest of the product line. A color active-matrix TFT screen puts it in competition with Pocket PCs. The operating system is changed as well, to accommodate color. It'll take some time to develop the color applications currently available with the grayscale versions, however. The rechargeable battery is supposed to allow for two weeks of "normal usage." The 8MB storage doesn't keep up with the 16MB standard in most Pocket PCs, but the Palm OS doesn't have as much overhead as the Windows OS.

Manufacturer: Palm
Model: IIIc
OS: Palm
Street Price: $449
Phone: (800)881-7256
Web Site: www.palm.com

Hewlett-Packard Jornada 545

We're including two devices from Palm because the Palm IIIc is a different beast than the rest of the product line. A color active-matrix TFT screen puts it in competition with Pocket PCs. The operating system is changed as well, to accommodate color. It'll take some time to develop the color applications currently available with the grayscale versions, however. The rechargeable battery is supposed to allow for two weeks of "normal usage." The 8MB storage doesn't keep up with the 16MB standard in most Pocket PCs, but the Palm OS doesn't have as much overhead as the Windows OS.

Manufacturer: Hewlett-Packard
Model: Jornada 545
OS: Pocket PC
Street Price: $499
Phone: (800)443-1254
Web Site: www.hp.com/jornada