Most hand-held machines use the Windows CE operating system, the cut-down version of Windows 9598. But now Microsoft has developed a third-generation Windows CE system called Windows Handheld PC Pro Edition.
Pro Edition is not just a cosmetic upgrade. It supports full-size VGA and S-VGA graphics displays, which means you can connect the latest range - more of a notebook size than a hand-held - to monitors or a liquid crystal display projector for collaborative work or presentations. The Windows CE versions of the popular desktop word processor program Word and spreadsheet program Excel (Pocket Word and Pocket Excel) have also been improved, and there is now support for colour printing.
The Web browser, Pocket Internet Explorer, can support Java software, which makes it possible to download programs from the Internet and use them regardless of the type of computer you have. These latest Windows CE models can also play video clips (MPEG standard), send and receive faxes and emails.
More than 40 hardware and software companies have pledged support for Microsoft's Pro Edition but, so far, only two have announced firm plans to launch models in Britain. Sharp's PV-5000 (pound;934 plus VAT) has a 21cm colour touch-screen, weighs a little more than 1kg and has a smart clam-shell design. Its lithium-ion battery gives up to eight hours' use. Hewlett Packard's Jornada 820 (pound;849) has a 21cm colour liquid crystal display, large keyboard and built-in 56k modem. It weighs just 1kg and its battery offers up to 10 hours of use.
Even if you have never been impressed by laptop computers, these are worth checking out.
* BETT CONNECTIONS
RM stand D50 E50 SN6 01235 826000 www.eduweb.co.uk
Xemplar stand E34 F34 01223 724724 www.xemplar.co.uk
Psion 0171 262 5580 www.psion.co.uk
Microsoft stand D30 D34 0345 002000 www.microsoft.com
Hewlett Packard www.
0990 474747 www.hp.com
Sharp 0990 274277 www.sharp.co.uk