The lowdown on the on-the-belt units

What are they? On-your-belt units comprise the three basic types of palm-size wireless devices: PDAs, smart phones and BlackBerry-style communicators.

Do they have shared functions? Makers of cellular phones have been adding such features as data modems and applications software, while some PDA models and BlackBerrys feature phones. But sometimes adding features can take away from the core function.

What are the latest developments? Phone vendors have been adding 'world' phone transmitters that support the European, Asian and emerging North American protocols, while finding success with slightly pared-down smart phones that have basic organizer features and let you surf the Web, exchange e-mail, view short video clips and play games. PDA makers have increasingly incorporated IEEE 802.11b functions.

Must-know info? BlackBerry's influence is growing. Its thumb keyboard has become the standard for wireless messaging, with Handspring and Palm adopting the style. And later this year, phone-makers will incorporate its secure back-end technology for messaging. Meanwhile, the BlackBerry platform will also become more open for development, letting agencies and software companies develop applications that run on the handhelds.


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