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IBM Japan has developed a tiny prototype PC that measures just 16 x 8.2 x 2.2cm (6.4 x 3.3 x 0.9in) and weights a mere 300g (10.6oz), the company said today.

For now dubbed the PC Core System, the (literally) pocket PC is based on a 1GHz Transmeta Crusoe TM5800 processor. Inside the case, you'll also find 256MB of memory - it can take up to 512MB - and a 20GB 2.5in hard drive. The machine runs a variety of versions of Windows.

IBM's thinking is that users will carry around their PCs, plugging them into base units (as shown here) located wherever they happen to be working. The approach is intended to appeal to corporates who want to thoroughly mobilise their workforces. The base stations can connect the core unit to a screen, keyboard, mouse and network connection. The system, it reckons, is much better than, say, a notebook, which becomes almost useless if its delicate LCD display is damaged in transit.

IBM Japan calls the PC Core System a "completely new concept". Well, sort of. Certainly it's not the only ultra-small PC out there. Japanese firm the Personal Media Company announced an even smaller machine, the T-Cube, last December. However, this colour kit is based on an NEC CPU running a non-mainstream operating system, T-Engine. Wearable PCs have very small system units, but not perhaps as small as this.

In fact, what the PC Core System most reminds us of is Apple's iPod. It may be a hard drive-based music player now, but the iPod already offers basic PIM display functionality, and adding support for still and moving photography would be a doddle. Mac OS X 10.3 was originally planned to allow users to store their Home directories on an iPod. That feature may not have made it to the final cut, but it remains a possibility for future versions of the OS.

At that point you've essentially got a next-generation PDA - or the kind of device today's PDAs are evolving toward - and it's no great surprise to see the machine's processing power grow to allow it to do all the heavy lifting too. Carry your iPod with you during to day to listen to music, read email, check your diary and so on. At home or in the office, you just slide it into your Cinema Display - or a cradle connected to the LCD - and do some work. ®

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