At Comdex, if it's portable, it's hot

At Comdex, if it's portable, it's hot

Trade show highlights software that puts desktop computing in your pocket

By John Breeden II

GCN Staff

LAS VEGAS'When is a palm device no longer a palm device? That question puzzled visitors at the Comdex trade show last week.

Armies of software companies showed off programs designed to transform handheld devices from pocket organizers into ultraportable desktop computers. And hardware companies brought a bevy of new handheld, and not-so-easy-to-hold, devices that literally littered the show floor in some areas.

Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates demonstrated an 8- by 11-inch tablet computer that he said will be on the market within a year. Gates said the emerging handheld market will one day be a major force, and his audience of 200,000 seemed to agree.

DataViz Inc. of Trumbull, Conn., generated a buzz with a program called Documents To Go, which lets users edit Microsoft Word documents and Excel spreadsheets on devices running Palm OS. The program also works with Lotus SmartSuite, Corel WordPerfect and Mac OS document files. Formatting such as boldface text and italics will survive the transition, according to DataViz.

FileMaker Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., is in the second stage of a beta release of FileMaker Mobile, which lets Palm OS devices interact with full-scale FileMaker databases. Databases have been mostly off-limits for handhelds, but FileMaker officials said their application could work within the memory constraints of the current handheld platforms.

The goal for handheld makers is to increase speed and memory without enlarging size, which would destroy their portability advantage over notebook PC makers.

Market leader Palm Inc., also of Santa Clara, does not plan many changes to its lineup, except for adding wireless connectivity and Internet access.

Disparate views

'Microsoft's way of thinking is that everyone wants a PC in their pocket,' said Dan Glessner, director of business and government marketing for Palm. 'We don't think that. People want something better.'

Glessner said Palm makes a secure, standalone system for information access. He said users prefer to synchronize handhelds with desktop PCs, which do the heavy processing.

'More government agencies are seeing that the Palm is more than a calendar,' Glessner said. 'Internet access is critical to that.'

The same applications that generated interest for the Palm are also on the way for the Microsoft-powered PocketPC.

VTech Information LLC of Beaverton, Ore., however, was promoting the Helio, which looks like a Palm but costs $159 and has 8M of internal memory. VTech next year will release the Helio Linux OS and will give away the Linux source code. Helio models can be upgraded for free to the Linux OS.

YadaYada Inc. of New York demonstrated Web pages viewable in Hypertext Markup Language on a Palm OS handheld without any Wireless Application Protocol translation.

Motient Corp. of Reston, Va., showed its eLink software on the RIM 850 pocket organizer-pager from GoAmerica Communications Corp. of Hackensack, N.J.

ELink can route incoming mail through the user's desktop e-mail program and store copies of outgoing e-mail automatically in the desktop outbox, all without syncing the RIM 850. Motient officials said eLink would work on any handheld platform.


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