Mobile devices get smarter and more connected

Mobile devices get smarter and more connected

Companies are developing products to let you communicate across wireless personal area networks

By Mark A. Kellner

Special to GCN

PASADENA, Calif.'The Demo Mobile conference this month drew new enterprise applications for devices running the handheld Palm OS from Palm Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif.

They are the FileMaker Mobile version of the FileMaker Pro 5 database manager from FileMaker Inc., also of Santa Clara, and Mobile Notes from Lotus Development Corp.

FileMaker Mobile for the Palm OS, described as an easy-to-use companion to FileMaker Pro 5, will synchronize data between a Palm device and FileMaker Pro 5 running on a PC under Microsoft Windows or a Macintosh. The database application will cost less than $100 and will be ready this winter, product manager Deborah Colton said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is among the sites using FileMaker Pro 5, introduced about 14 months ago, she said.

Lotus senior marketing manager James Pouliopoulos said Mobile Notes for Palm will be ready in the first half of 2001. He said Lotus expects to develop versions of Mobile Notes for Microsoft Windows CE and the Epoc/32 handheld operating system from Psion PLC. He gave no pricing details.

Present plans call for Mobile Notes to incorporate encryption security via the Data Encryption Standard, or via other algorithms if there is sufficient demand, he said.

The Demo Mobile event largely focused this year on 'm-commerce,' or electronic buying and selling via mobile phones and handhelds. But several hardware announcements had enterprise implications.

IBM Corp.'s Personal Systems Group will deliver what it called 'the industry's first Intel-based notebook computer with integrated wireless LAN capability' late this year.

802.11b and Bluetooth

Dubbed the ThinkPad i Series, it will start at $1,149 with a built-in wireless antenna and transmitter for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' 802.11b wireless LAN standard. The unit will also work with IBM's new Bluetooth PC Card, due out next month.

Ronald P. Sperano, an IBM program director, said the first new ThinkPads will target the education market as 'inexpensive, all-in-one' devices for students. But he said enterprise-class mobile systems will come out 'in the second half of 2001, maybe a bit sooner.'

IBM plans a Bluetooth card for the UltraPort connector that sits at the top of the ThinkPad display. Invented by Intel Corp., the Bluetooth wireless chip spontaneously links devices such as computers, keyboards, telephones and printers at a 2.5-GHz frequency over limited distances into a so-called personal area network.

In the second half of 2001, Sperano said, IBM expects to launch a miniature 802.11b device for the UltraPort slot.

In other hardware news at Demo Mobile, Inviso Corp. of Sunnyvale, Calif., showed eShades. The sunglasses-like device connects to a VGA-out port on a notebook or desktop computer and 'gives the visual equivalent of a 19-inch monitor at 2.5 feet' at a resolution of 800 by 600 pixels, said Steve Timmerman, sales and marketing vice president.

The eShades, due later this year and expected to sell for about $600, stretches battery life for portables, he said, because its power consumption is less than half that of a notebook display. He said it ensures privacy when working in public.

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