IN a move aimed at helping reinforce Sharp's position as a leading producer of personal digital assistants (PDAs), Sharp has introduced its Zaurus ZR-5000 model in Hong Kong. The Zaurus, which has been available since late 1994 in the United States where more than 10,000 units sell per month, is based on the Japanese Zaurus line introduced in Japan in 1993, now in its third generation. The Zaurus brings together the convenience of pen-based electronic ink and the accuracy of keyboard input in a unit with a built-in PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card Industry Association) Type II slot aimed at making the Zaurus an ideal communication tool for executives. 'This introduction is not simply an introduction of Sharp's latest keyboard-enhanced personal digital assistant,' said Kazuo Sasaki, managing director of Sharp-Roxy (HK), 'but also Sharp's commitment to develop a portable personal device incorporating the functions of note-jotting, word processing, database management and telecommunications. The ZR-5000 is built around a task-oriented software design as opposed to the conventional application-oriented model of traditional PDAs. The integrated operating system includes a note-taking utility, word processing software with an automatic document-formatting feature, built-in terminal software, fax capability (with an optional modem), and a suite of Personal Information Management (PIM) applications including a scheduler with to-do list management and an address book application. While the Zaurus doesn't use any hand-writing recognition technology, because, according to Sharp representatives, English-language handwriting recognition systems are still an immature technology, it does offer the capability to take notes in electronic ink and later use a transcriber window to type the notes into a formatted word processor document. At the same time, the note-taking utility allows users to draw freehand graphics and images. The built-in word processor features a spell-checker, and an automatic letter formatting which can insert recipient's addresses and signatures into a letter. Clearly aimed at the communications market, the PCMCIA Type II card slot allows for expansion using industry-standard modems, cellular modems, as well as memory cards. CompuServe and AT&T EasyLink both are developing software interface software for the ZR-5000 which will be available later this year. AT&T EasyLink services will allow Zaurus users to exchange E-mail with other subscribers as well as with the global Internet. The CompuServe software will provide a graphical front-end to CompuServe's range of information and communication services. Mobile phone maker Nokia has also announced that its industry-first Cellular Data Card is compatible with the ZR-5000, enabling users to make data and fax calls over GSM digital networks. The Zaurus ZR-5000 is expected to retail in Hong Kong for HK$3980.