INNOVATION: Palmtop computing
Far Eastern Economic Review
October 8, 1998
Focus -- Asian Innovation Awards:
Technology: Power in Your Palm
By Salil Tripathi
Hewlett-Packard, Singapore: The 620LX palmtop -- conceived, designed
and manufactured in Singapore
Life is tough for road warriors. Laptops are heavy. Personalized
digital assistants have limited functions. And most hand-held computers
are monochrome without backlit screens; viewing PowerPoint presentations
on the road becomes a chore. Now Hewlett-Packard's Singapore-designed
Palmtop computer allows that and a bit more.
Last December Hewlett-Packard unveiled the 620LX, the world's first
colour-screen hand-held computer, conceived, designed and manufactured
in Singapore. Miniaturization is the main strength of HP's 200-strong
R&D team in Singapore.
"We believe in packaging more components and introducing as
features as we can, while keeping the machine of the smallest possible
size," says Ng Say Ban, the product-line manager at HP's Asia-Pacific
personal computer division.
In developing the colour Palmtop, the key constraint was energy
consumption. The Palmtop's battery lasts five hours less than the
monochrome Palmtop's 15-20 hours, but more than notebook computers
running Windows 95 (90-120 minutes).
"We had to be careful because colour drains the battery. The
lay in better power management, and we found the answer in lithium-ion
batteries," Ng says. The rest -- backlit screen, low weight, and an
operating system similar to the desktop environment -- was easy.
(Palmtop uses Microsoft's Windows CE operating system and today commands
43% share worldwide in that subcategory. It costs $799). Other features
include voice compression and recording and colour output of
presentations. After a fax/modem card is installed, it allows for
checking e-mail, browsing the Web and sending faxes.
The Palmtop cannot replace the desktop or the laptop, whose
are more conducive to serious typing. But product manager Jason Johnson
says the Palmtop is not meant for writing long memos or reports. Esther
Tan, an accountant "just looking" for hand-held computers at a Singapore
computer store, agrees: "I wouldn't want to write on it, but the screen