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User to User : Long Live the HP 200LX
Hal talks about the past and the future of the HP Palmtop.
Hewlett-Packard introduced its first Windows CE product almost two years ago. In the past, such a change in its product line meant that the previous product would go out of production very soon. Yet HP continues to sell the HP 200LX and HP 1000CX in large enough numbers to show a profit.
HP has not invested marketing or R&D dollars into the HP 200LX platform. On the contrary, since HP does not want to confuse potential customers, only the Windows CE HP Jornada line gets mentioned. HP leaves it to the consumer to learn about the HP 200LX and find out where to buy one. HP 200LX sales continue due to word of mouth and because the HP 200LX/1000CX DOS platform is the best solution for many corporate customers.
Speaking not as a purist but as a businessman, I understand HP's strategy. HP believes that Windows CE will be the industry standard--the future for "PC Companions". HP feels that a standard handheld operating system will accelerate the "hockey stick" growth curve for handheld devices.
HP now sells the color palm-size HP Jornada 420 and a mini-notebook sized HP 820 "handheld PC /Pro". HP 200LX users may also be interested in the new HP Jornada 680, a color Windows CE device, a little bigger than the HP 200LX. Next issue we hope to look at one from an HP 200LX user's perspective.
As the publisher of Handheld PC Magazine, I have my pick of Windows CE devices. Instead, I chose a memory-upgraded double-speed HP 200LX as my main "personal computer"--the one I keep on my person. The built-in HP 200LX applications are superior to Windows CE apps and there are many more (and less costly) DOS programs than Windows CE programs. The HP 200LX has longer battery life and is more reliable.
On the other hand ,Windows CE devices let me have color screens with backlighting, voice recording, touch screen, Outlook synchronization and the Windows look and feel. As I have written about in the past, I've used a half-screen NEC on the road and look forward to testing a full screen HP Jornada HP 820. When I travel, what I care about is less weight, long battery life, touch typing, instant on, reliability, email, word processing, and spreadsheets. I get all that with the Windows CE H/PC pro.
The future of the HP 200LX?
As long as the HP 200LX continues to sell, HP will continue to manufacture it. Even if HP decides to discontinue the Palmtop line altogether, we at The HP Palmtop Paper plan to support the HP 200LX platform with previously owned palmtops, repairs, upgrades, software, and knowledge products. We are counting heavily on the extraordinary number of loyal, satisfied, HP 200LX customers. We're hoping that history will repeat itself. When the HP Portable Plus laptop computer was discontinued in 1987, we maintained a thriving business supporting users for four more years until HP introduced the Palmtop in 1991.
As time passes, I think it is apparent that we have lived through the "golden age" of palmtop computing. Brilliant HP engineering, accompanied by enthusiastic users, created a software and knowledge base for the HP 200LX second to none.
In that golden era we have witnessed the HP Calculator and Palmtop division reorganize itself several times. The last major reorganization involved the move from Corvallis, Oregon (where the HP 200LX was created) to Singapore. When the HP 200LX was in Corvallis, there was very little marketing investment and when the division moved to Singapore, R&D shifted to the short-lived HP OmniGo 100 and then to the Jornada Windows CE line. It is simply unfortunate, that HP never got behind its Palmtop line with continued improvements.
New HP 200LX products on the horizon?
We are always on the lookout for new HP 200LX products. The two most commonly requested items are a backlit screen for the HP 200 LX and Outlook 98 transfer or synchronization. Both projects are being worked on, but as of this writing, we still can't say, if or when those products will be available. (You'll be the first to know from reading our new electronic newsletter and our printed catalog).
On Again Off Again Windows
For many months we have tried to get permission from Microsoft to sell Windows 3.0 along with early versions of Word and Excel. These products can be made to work on an HP 200LX. Data from Word and Excel can be transferred back and forth with the current versions of the same programs.
Unfortunately, it seems that while we will soon have permission to sell Windows 3.0, we won't be allowed to distribute the early versions of Word or Excel. We feel that Windows 3.0 would be a fun, novelty product, but not very practical, especially since it can only be run in a limited way on the 200LX. The amount of freeware and shareware available for this mode of operation appears to be almost nonexistent. We'd also have to rewrite the Windows User's Manual since Microsoft will not allow us to reproduce this out of print document. At this point we are leaning towards not distributing Windows 3.0, but we'll see.
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