- The Washington Times - Monday, April 29, 2002

I've said it before: Little hinges swing big doors. To illustrate this, consider the news last week that Compaq Computer Corp. sold its 2 millionth iPAQ pocket PC device, taking 24 months to accomplish this.
To those of us who have worked with hand-held devices of varying stripes, it's not difficult to see why the iPAQ is the top seller of all pocket PC devices. Its design is sleek, but highly functional, allowing easy manipulation of the control buttons. Its color display screen is bright and clear, while those iPAQs featuring monochrome displays are also sharp and more economical.
Perhaps one of the great attractions of the iPAQ is its expansion strategy: Create a slot on the base of the unit to which one can connect a variety of other devices while retaining the sleek design and easy-to-reach button configuration. Several developers have glommed on to this, and one of the most impressive, according to Compaq itself, is Nexian Inc., a San Diego-based subsidiary of South Korea's Navicom Ltd.
Nexian's $199 NexiCam, according to Compaq spokesman Roger Frizzell, is helping the larger company impress potential customers and win big sales orders for the iPAQ with which the NexiCam works.
"I think the NexiCam is a sexy 'extra' that you can get when using the iPAQ," he says in an interview. "People expect to have a lot of pizzazz with the iPAQ, and the NexiCam delivers that."
Mr. Frizzell says the firm has gotten favorable response to the NexiCam offering from "Asia and throughout the U.S.; we've literally had hundreds of queries" and that those requests are turning into substantial orders, "the camera leading to an iPAQ sale."
He asserts that having such unique expansion products is a key element of the iPAQ's success.
"I think it's critical because you're only as strong as your applications," Mr. Frizzell says. "Companies like Nexian and many others are expanding our portfolio of offerings. The differential between us and the Palm [platform] is the applications that can be driven. The iPAQ is not just an organizer, but a full function PC that can be carried with you."
The camera shoots photos and short video clips at a resolution of 800-by-600 pixels.
In my testing, the "beauty" of the NexiCam is that it capitalizes on the strengths of the iPAQ: a powerful processor, 32 or 64 MB of built-in memory, and ways to store photos on either Compact Flash storage cards (the NexiCam has a CF slot) or, on newer iPAQs, a SecureDigital card. It was easy to get the camera up and running: One installs the NexiCam software on the device via the ActiveSync process then slides the iPaq into the NexiCam "sled." The iPAQ recognizes the camera, and the user fires up the device by activating the software from the pocket PC's drop-down program menu.
On-screen, NexiCam users find a viewfinder, plus controls to brighten a picture. The NexiCam works best in daylight or bright office conditions but also functions well in lower-light situations. The lens can "articulate," or move, as much as 180 degrees, which, as we'll see, has more than one benefit.
Once snapped, photos can be viewed on the hand-held screen as thumbnail images or as a slide show; deleting unwanted images is a simple process. Pictures can be organized into individual albums for viewing as well.
The ActiveSync process is how to transfer photos from the iPAQ to a desktop computer either through a USB cable or infrared. A separate "My Pictures" folder is created on the host PC, where the images are found. The NexiCam saves pictures in the Web friendly JPEG format, and these can be viewed with the standard imaging software supplied with Microsoft Windows, as well as edited using specialized programs such as Adobe Photoshop or JASC PaintShop Pro 7.
Remember that 180-degree articulating lens? One use for that will be to allow users to have a video conference in the palm of their hands, thanks to the CF card slot or perhaps to built-in communications options in future iPAQs, Mr. Frizzell says.
"The attractive thing for us about the Nexicam is not only a camera, but also its pop-up lens for video-conferencing capability. That with wireless technologies and new capabilities will be very exciting," he says.
As is, the NexiCam can record as much as 45 seconds of video at a rate of 10 to 15 frames per second, ideal for someone trying to capture a house or other large property for sale, or document a car's condition.
While the pocket PC community is, justifiably, happy over the success of the Compaq iPAQ, it's equally interesting to see the recent surge of interest that Compaq and others attribute to the NexiCam. Details of the camera can be found online at www.nexian.com, while iPAQ information is available at www.compaq.com/showroom/ hand-helds.html.

Write to Mark Kellner in care of The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; send e-mail to [email protected], or visit the writer's Web page, www.kellner2000.com. Talk back live to Mr. Kellner on www.adrenalineradio.com every Friday from 5 to 6 p.m. EST.

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