New PDAs promise big changes

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Update: New PDAs promise big changes By Leonard Fischer, Gannett News Service If you’ve been considering buying a new personal digital assistant (PDA) or wireless phone either for the first time or as an upgrade you might want to hold off, at least for a little while. Granted, prices on current models are especially low right now thanks to aggressive promotions and price reductions by Compaq, Handspring and Palm, but that’s because a whole array of new products are on the way and these companies want to move existing inventory. The rumor mill is buzzing with news about emerging devices, and, more than ever, it appears that the convergence between the mobile phone and the PDA is the wave of the future. Let’s take a look at some choices that will be available soon. More Wireless news Next-generation phones on horizon, FCC contests NextWave plan, and more. Handspring and Palm this week both received FCC approval for new wireless PDAs. While little is known about the Palm i705, it’s expected to be the replacement for the Palm VIIx. At least one PDA site has reported that it will use CDMA technology, which is faster than the speed of the current BellSouth network that the Palm VIIs use, but other reliable sources say it will continue to work on the BellSouth system. Regardless of the network, the device is expected to be smaller, but more expandable, than the Palm VIIx Of course, Palm has kept all news of the i705’s development under tight wraps, but it’s expected before the end of the year. More is known about Handspring’s new wireless devices thanks to InfoSync, a Norwegian Web site (www.infosync.no/en/) that’s published details and photos. Apparently, two models will be available the Treo g180 and the Treo k180. Both work as wireless phones and PDAs, and they both will operate on CDMA and GPS networks. From the photographs, they appear to be very sleek, and feature flip-up lids that protect their screens. So what’s the difference between the “g” and “k” models? It’s just one small but amazing detail. The “k” model drops Graffiti handwriting recognition, which always has been included with every Palm model, and replaces it with a keyboard you can type on with your thumbs. From the photos on the InfoSync site, the keyboard looks virtually identical to the one found on the popular Research in Motion (RIM) wireless messaging devices. The “g” model retains Graffiti for folks who are comfortable with handwriting recognition. Both devices are expected to ship with 16 megabytes of memory, another first for Palm PDAs. I checked with my Handspring public relations contact, but he said the company can’t confirm any of the details InfoSync has reported. Donna Dubinsky, Handspring’s CEO, has told the press to expect new models by year’s end. InfoSync also is the first site to show some next generation PocketPCs from Hewlett-Packard. They’re going to be announced officially next week, as is the introduction of the PocketPC 2002 operating system, which is supposed to more closely resemble the forthcoming desktop Windows XP operating system. Priced comparably to today’s high-end PocketPCs, the sleek HP Jornada 560 line will include either 32 or 64 megabytes of memory. What’s more, the rumor mill says these devices might include basic voice recognition technology so you’ll be able to interact with your handheld by speaking commands to it, such as “Open appointments.” They’re also supposed to make wireless connections easier to use. The recent announcement that Sony and Ericsson will be merging their mobile phone and handheld computing operations is another indication that convergence is on the way. Sony brings to the table its powerful Clie line of PDAs, while Ericsson provides advanced wireless phone technology. No products based on the new partnership are expected until 2002. And finally, I saw my first live demonstration of the mysterious Danger device this week. It’s a new handheld platform that also blends voice and PDA functions. I can’t say much more until the device is introduced next week at the DemoMobile show in La Jolla, Calif., except that it definitely looks cool, though it won’t be available until first quarter of next year.

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