The cost of color

The increasing use of color displays in the handheld computer market has boosted interest in the devices.

Compaq Computer Corp.'s introduction of color in its iPaq line last year swamped the company with orders it had difficulty filling. Palm Inc. also began offering models with color displays last year and just introduced the Palm m505, which features a 65,000-color reflective LCD display. The question for some buyers is how to justify the greater cost of color models over monochrome units.

Color is especially useful for multimedia applications, such as training programs, that exploit the ability to display streaming video, said Steve Schanzer, director of strategic applications for Compaq's federal group. Because of the limited amount of video the device can hold, applications that stream data from a server via a wireless connection would be ideal, he said.

"Almost everyone I talk to prefers the color," said Doreen Canova, sales development manager for I-appliances at Hewlett-Packard Co. "They want it, but do they really need it? Not necessarily."

However, that may be because most current handheld applications are written for monochrome use, so they don't exploit color the way they could.

"I've seen prototypes that use red and green as an indication to the user of an error," said John Inkley, Palm's manager of federal sales. "The move to color is just beginning."

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