The PDA (personal digital assistant) market is about to get more crowded with the entry of another Japanese hardware maker. NEC said yesterday it plans to follow in the path of Sony, which launched its first PDA last year, and Toshiba, which plans to launch its own device this year. NEC plans to have a PDA in the Japanese market by the end of 2001.

The new NEC device will be based on a StrongArm central processor from Intel. and run Microsoft's Windows CE operating system. The company has yet to announce other details although did disclose that it plans to support both CompactFlash and Secure Digital media cards in the device.

"We decided to enter the PDA market because we see consumers have increasing needs for this type of device," said Susumu Sakamoto, a spokesman for NEC. "Until now we have concentrated on our MobilePro range of portable computers with keyboards but people need more compact and portable computers."

NEC's MobilePro range of Windows CE-based computers have been on sale for several years. Around half the size of a conventional notebook computer, there are currently two machines available in the range – the 880 (pictured) and 790 - both of which feature full-size keyboards and colour displays.

When NEC enters the market it will face fierce competition from established companies, like Sharp, and those like Sony and Handspring, which only entered the Japanese market in the last year. Coupled with Toshiba's plan to launch a Windows CE-based PDA later this year, the Japanese market will be tough to enter although NEC is confident it will become a major player.

"We are looking to achieve a 10 percent market share this year," said Sakamoto, "and have a 20 percent share by 2003."