Toshiba finally entered the PDA (personal digital assistant) arena today, unveiling what it claims is the world's smallest and lightest Pocket PC device. The Genio e550 will go on sale in Japan in August and is expected to be available in Europe at the beginning of next year.

The Genio e550, which will get its public debut on Tuesday at Tokyo's Wireless Japan 2001 Expo, uses Microsoft's latest Windows CE operating system and comes with both CompactFlash and Secure Digital (SD) expansion slots. One of these could be used to house additional memory while the other is used for a wireless connection, such as Bluetooth, wireless LAN or GPRS.

"Toshiba started notebook PCs," boasted Tetsuya Mizoguchi, a senior executive managing director at Toshiba's Mobile Communications division. Now the company hopes "to catch up and overtake the US" in the PDA field, he said.

The new device includes a 3.5in colour TFT (thin-film transistor) screen, 32MB memory and support for both MP3 audio and Mpeg 4 video. Toshiba claims the 180g Genio’s batteries will last up to eight hours on a single charge. No European prices have been announced.

The Genio uses Intel's 206MHz StrongArm processor, the chip used in the Compaq iPaq and HP's Jornada Pocket PC. Sharp's soon-to-be-released Linux-based PDA and ViewSonic's recently announced ViewPad 100 also use the 206MHz StrongArm.

In addition, Toshiba plans to punt out a Bluetooth SD-format card, which should provide the device with a wireless connection to other electronic products.

But all is not well in the world of handhelds. At least one vendor is retreating from the market altogether. Psion announced last week that it will move away from the handheld computer market, which is described as 'completely saturated' – in other words too many vendors are battling for our cash.