3Com's way-cool Palm VII puts wireless in hand

3Com's way-cool Palm VII puts wireless in hand

By Richard W. Wlaker

GCN Staff

Defense Secretary William H. Cohen has one. So does Treasury chief information officer Jim Flyzik.

It's what everybody interested in palmtop computing is talking about: the Palm VII wireless from 3Com Corp.

It's not even available yet in most of the country, but that hasn't stopped a lot of buyers.

'People are buying it, and they're using it in California and wherever the service is up and running,' said Diana Roberson, director of product marketing for 3Com's new wireless and home connectivity division. 'But this is a controlled rollout. We want to make sure we have all the glitches worked out.'

The Palm VII, priced at $599, is available only in the New York City area. Roberson said 3Com expects its nationwide rollout to be complete early in October.

With just a flip of the antenna, users of 3Com's new Palm VII wireless palmtop can send and receive e-mail and get instant access to a variety of specially formatted Web sites. Still being rolled out, the device is priced at $599.

First on the block

Bucky Buchanan, division head at the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station in Washington, is one of those who has leaped on the Palm VII bandwagon early.

He said that he uses his Palm VII principally for wireless messaging and that he never goes anywhere without it.

'My Palm VII wireless device is a great tool because of the e-mail capabilities,' he said. 'And because it's with me all the time, I don't have to wait for an idea to get transmitted to a host of people.'

The Palm VII contains a tiny, two-way radio that 3Com's Palm Computing Co. integrated onto a form factor similar to that of the Palm III. The Palm VII is only slightly longer than the Palm III.

The company delivers wireless Internet service to users through its new Palm.Net service. Users can activate the service right out of the box by entering billing and credit-card information onto a registration screen that pops up the first time the antenna is raised.

The underlying wireless infrastructure for Palm.Net is BellSouth Wireless Data's Intelligent Wireless Network, which covers 260 major population areas in the U.S.'about 93 percent of nation's urban business population, 3Com officials said.

To access Internet data on the Palm VII, a user simply raises the antenna, prompting a screen listing a variety of applications.

By tapping on one of the applications, the user summons up a new screen, called a query application, which lets the user define the type of information needed.

With another tap of the stylus, the user sends the query to the Internet, and within seconds a Web clipping'a page of results specially formatted for the screen by servers hosted by Palm Computing'is returned.''

To conserve battery life, the device doesn't activate the radio until a message is sent by the user.

More than 20 organizations have made their Web content available for Palm VII Web clipping, including ABC News, ESPN, Fodor's, Merriam-Webster, USA Today and the Weather Channel.

Industry watchers say the device is not without some salient deficiencies. For one thing, Palm.Net's wireless services have the potential to be very expensive. Basic service is $10 a month, but additional charges are based on how much data is sent and received. Palm VII users who access, say, several 3K stories from ABC News daily may be surprised at their monthly bill.

Users get an e-mail account, but they can't access their own corporate e-mail.

Despite these faults, the Palm VII is a big step toward the wireless future.

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