The first glimpse of the Wi-Fi Memory Stick came earlier this month at the CeBIT tradeshow in Germany. However, little was known about it at the time. Much more complete information about it is now available.
The HNT-MSW1 Memory Stick Wireless LAN card will use the 802.11b standard. It be able to transmit up to 11 Mbps at a range of 120 feet. However, it uses a 1-bit bus speed when transferring data to the handheld, which will keep it far below the theoretical 11 Mbps.
Wi-Fi cards in general use quite a bit of power and the HNT-MSW1 is no exception. It will use 300 mA when sending, 250 mA when receiving, and 20 mA in standby.
The bad news is the company says it will only be available for Palm OS 5 devices. This is a bit surprising as it eliminates most of the potential consumers. Most of Sony’s Palm OS 5 devices have a slot that allows them to use a CompactFlash Wi-Fi card already. However, the millions of Clies with OS 4 have no option for Wi-Fi.
Hagiwara Sys-Com hasn’t released exact dimensions for this card but clearly a sizable piece will extend beyond the confines of the Memory Stick slot.
At this point, this is the only company to have announced plans to make a Wi-Fi Memory Stick.
Hagiwara Sys-Com is also working on the HNT-MSB1, a Bluetooth Memory Stick. This will be able to transmit data at a max rate of 732 kbps at up to 10 meters. The company hasn’t released the exact power requirements for this but Bluetooth typically uses far less power than Wi-Fi.
The HNT-MSB1 will work with both Palm OS 4 and Palm OS 5 devices.
It will face competition from Sony’s own Bluetooth Memory Stick. However, availability of this is somewhat limited, as it was never officially released in the U.S., and many feel it is over-priced.
Secure Digital (SD)
Hagiwara Sys-Com is also developing a Wi-Fi card that can be used with Palm OS models with SD slots. The HNT-SDW1 will use the 802.11b standard and will be able to transmit up to 11 Mbps at a range of 120 feet. It uses the 4-bit bus speed, called SD Wide. It has the same power requirements as the Memory Stick version.
Fortunately, it will support both Palm OS 4 and OS 5, which means that almost every Palm OS model with an SD slot will be able to use this card, the exception being the HandEra models.
Like the Memory Stick version, a sizable percentage of the HNT-SDW1 will extend outside of the slot.
This card will face competition from ones being developed by both Socket and SanDisk. The first of these aren’t expected until June, when SanDisk will release one for $100.
Finally, Hagiwara Sys-Com is creating an SD Bluetooth card, called the HNT-SDB1. Like the Memory Stick version, this is a Class 2 device and is able to transmit data at a max rate of 732 kbps at up to 10 meters. It will work with both Palm OS 4 and Palm OS 5 devices.
Palm markets a Bluetooth SD card made by Toshiba. It sells for $130.
The company currently has no plans to make Pocket PC drivers for these SD cards.
Pricing and Availability
Hagiwara Sys-Com says that all of these cards will be available in the third quarter of this year. It has not announced what any of them will cost.
About Hagiwara Sys-Com
This company is probably best known in the Palm community for making Springboard modules for the Handspring Visor, including some memory modules and the Beat Plus. It also makes memory cards of several types. It has facilities in Nagoya, Japan; Irvine, CA; and Taipei, Taiwan.
About Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
Wi-Fi, or Wireless Fidelity, is a medium-range wireless networking protocol. It offers data transfer speeds of up to 11 MB per second over a range of 300 feet. It’s typically used to allow mobile devices, like laptops and handhelds, to connect to networks and therefore the Internet. Networks can be set up at home or offices and an increasing number of coffee shops and other businesses offer Wi-Fi access.
Bluetooth is a short-range wireless networking standard frequently used to allow a handheld to use a mobile phone as a modem to connect to the Internet. An increasing number of Bluetooth-enabled devices are coming on the market, such as GPS receivers, hard drives, and keyboards.