Smaller, stronger--Internet devices edge closer to Star Trek

The most exciting gadgets are handheld devices that support TCP/IP, the Net's
underlying communications glue.


Getting the most attention these days is 3Com Corp.'s $350 PalmPilot Professional. Read
about it at the World Wide Web site http://palmpilot.3com.com/.


The Professional lets you dial up your network with an optional modem and check mail
and schedules from anywhere on the Internet. Developers are working on Internet news
readers and intranet search tools for the device.


Military personnel, managers who spend a lot of time on the road and those who track
legislation are potential government users.


Nokia Inc.'s $999 Communicator 9000i works with PCs and Apple Macintoshes, weighs 14
ounces and includes a cell phone, network connectivity and software for e-mail, fax and
Telnet. Visit http://www.nokia.com.


The MobileAccess 120 from Mitsubishi Wireless is a $399 cell phone that doubles as an
e-mail client, pager, fax modem and Internet client.


If your file types will present a challenge to these little devices, visit http://www.inergy.com to see IOS2000, a full Internet
operating system that does quick file conversions for PCs, network computing devices and
handheld devices.


Graphics limits make it tough to browse the open Web with any of these devices, but we
will see specialized sites pop up with streamlined documents in Handheld Device Markup
Language for the small screen.


Sun Microsystems Inc. has high hopes that its PersonalJava platform for information
appliances will become a staple for handheld systems, too.


If you just want to connect your notebook to the Internet and don't plan to go the cell
phone route, check out Metricom Inc.'s Ricochet SE wireless modem at http://www.metricom.com.


It lists for $349, and connection service is available for $30 per month in Washington,
San Francisco and Seattle and on a few university campuses. As covered sites expand, the
potential government users include road warriors who work within range of big cities.


You don't need an Internet connection or cell phone to use the Internet Antenna, a
pyramid-shaped desktop PC receiver that comes with a subscription to the AirMedia Live
Internet Broadcast Network. There's also a mobile version.


The antennas bring in news services such as CNN Interactive, Reuters and the Weather
Channel. Visit http://www.airmedia.com/. The
service runs about $49 for hardware and $5.95 to $9.95 per month for premium services.
Federal uses include legislation and regulation tracking and business news.


Casio Inc.'s PhoneMate, discussed at http://www.casiophonemate.com/,
has the


IT-380 E-Mail Link, a telephone answering device that lets users dial up to check
e-mail from any Internet service on a three-line, 18-character LCD screen. At $149, this
is a good alternative for federal offices that need e-mail but can't put a PC on every
desk.


Internet gadgets aren't limited to connectivity. Check out the Kensington Internet
Mouse to accelerate your browsing speed in routine chores. The four-button, oval unit has
nonslip rubber sides and nine-pin, 24-pin and serial port adapters.


Its big time-savers are up and down scrolling buttons beneath the two main buttons.
Press both buttons at once to get a compass icon that lets you scroll in eight directions.
The $49.99 mouse has instant menus for opening Web sites or launching applications and
documents.


Visit http://www.kensington.com.


Feeling paranoid about your workspace when you're not there? If someone invades your
space, the $30 Connectix Corp. DigitalRadar takes a photo and stores it in a Web server
directory. The radar works with PC or Mac desktops and most tethered digital video cameras
such as the $199 color Connectix QuickCam. Visit http://www.connectix.com/.


Government sites that make certain areas off-limits to some personnel could make good
use of DigitalRadar.


Handheld readouts and specialized input devices are the new frontier for Internet
gadgets. The ultimate is the Phantom haptic interface from Sensable Technologies of
Cambridge, Mass. It gives you the sensation of feeling 3-D objects in cyberspace via a
special thimble hanging from a robotic arm.


Details are available at http://www.sensable.com,
but at four-figure prices it's unlikely Phantom interfaces will turn up on government
desktops soon.


Shawn P. McCarthy is a computer journalist, webmaster and Internet programmer for
Cahners Publishing Co. E-mail him at smccarthy@cahners.com.


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