After two years of relative dormancy, the Windows CE-based subnotebook handheld PCs are getting an update this week.

Microsoft is launching the Handheld PC 2000 at the Demo Mobile show in Pasadena, California, with products expected to hit UK shelves in October.

A category brand like Pocket PC, Handheld PC 2000 includes both the updated operating system and the subnotebook devices. Sales of the so-called HPC have been sluggish and OS updates nonexistent.

But a handful of vendors are readying new devices. The initial units are from Hewlett-Packard and NEC Computers.

HPC 2000 adds an integrated thin client for access to applications running on a Windows 2000 server, an updated Internet Explorer, and the Windows Media Player.

Like Pocket PCs, HPC 2000 includes Pocket Word, Pocket Excel, Pocket PowerPoint, and Pocket Access, according to Doug Dedo, group product manager of Microsoft's mobile devices division.

But you can also access full Windows applications through Windows 2000 terminal servers, he adds.

The HP Jornada 780 has a 206-MHz Intel Strongarm processor and a built-in Smart Card Reader for security.

Previous Jornada HPCs came in both the half and full-screen size. HP this time round is dropping the full-screen devices with this model.

But NEC will both offer full notebook-size HPC 2000s, according to Microsoft.

"They're not intended to be laptop replacements," Dedo says. Instead, customers use HPCs for paper-based processes the laptop can't replace, he says. For example, an HPC can offer instant on and off, immediate access to data, and long battery life.