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Start-Up to Release Ultra-Portable PC


NEW YORK — A little-known San Francisco company called OQO Inc. announced Tuesday a "modular" computer that crams processor, memory, battery and storage into a package the size of a paperback novel.

When the $1,000 Ultra-Personal Computer hits stores this fall or winter, it will operate as a wireless hand-held computer, akin to a Palm, the company said. Or it can be used as a "modular PC" that connects to a full-size keyboard, mouse and monitor to replace a desktop PC.

For now, handheld computers of its size--such as those running the Palm and Microsoft Pocket PC operating systems--merely synchronize with a computer's personal organization software.

The portable OQO goes further, becoming the central computing entity.

"This is a full Windows XP computer that fits in your pocket," said Colin Hunter, executive vice president of OQO. "Desktops are pretty much dead. Most people would prefer to have a computer they can carry around with them all the time."

The 5-inch by 3-inch device runs Microsoft Windows XP Professional on a Transmeta Corp. Crusoe processor, of up to 1 gigahertz. It also bundles 256 megabytes of RAM, a 10 gigabyte hard drive, and two wireless networking connections--using the 802.11b and Bluetooth standards.

A docking cable allows it to connect with an external keyboard, mouse and monitor. It also can be networked to an existing PC or laptop through an Ethernet cable or wireless connection. When undocked, the device's battery life is similar to a laptop's, at three to eight hours, depending on use.

OQO is negotiating licensing agreements with electronics companies who could manufacture and market the device. A version manufactured and sold under the OQO brand is also possible, a spokesman said.

OQO, founded in 1999, includes engineers and designers from Apple Computer Inc., NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, IBM Corp., the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oracle Corp. and Transmeta.

In February, IBM announced it would license technology for a similar device, known as the MetaPad. IBM's MetaPad won't be ready for a few years.

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