Opinion: Cool Tools By Keith Shaw Network World (US) Cell phones and other flashy wireless devices took center stage at the CTIA Wireless 2007 show, but there was still plenty of cool stuff for enterprises and business users. Here's a quick rundown:
Motion Computing launched its LE1700, the latest slate-tablet PC aimed at mobile professionals in the healthcare, field sales and service, and government markets. The device includes Intel Core 2 Duo processors, embedded wireless WAN (EV-DO Rev. A) connectivity, Windows Vista support and Motion's WriteTouch display, which automates switching between writing with a finger (touch input) or through a stylus (digitizer).
Other features include an SXGA+ LCD screen for enhanced image detail, up to 4GB of memory, new fingerprint-reader technology, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and a standard battery life of up to three hours (with optional extended battery support). In addition, a hard-drive accelerometer helps protect data by stopping the hard drive when a shock or drop of the device is detected. Pricing starts at US$2,200 for the Intel Core 2 Duo models, with Core Solo processor models starting at US$2,000.
Motorola, which completed its acquisition of Symbol Technologies in January, showed off its MC35 Enterprise Data Assistant. The handheld mobile computer is designed for a mobile field sales work-force, and joins the company's MC50 and rugged MC70 to offer enterprise-class wireless connectivity and features. The MC35 includes built-in GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and includes a digital camera and bar code reader. Other features include e-mail, Internet browsing and signature data capture. The device includes wireless Edge support, with AT&T and other carriers, Motorola says. Pricing ranges from US$640 to US$750, depending on configuration, and it is expected to be available in April through Motorola's business partners.
High Tech Computer (HTC) announced two new devices that should knock people out when the products arrive. The HTC Shift portable computer (scheduled for release in the third quarter of this year) includes Windows Vista support and advanced wireless connectivity. The HTC Advantage (scheduled for release this summer) includes the new Windows Mobile 6 operating system and has a unique magnetic connection system that adds a keyboard, yet is small enough to fold up and store in a coat pocket.
About the size of a couple of DVD cases, the Shift includes a 7-inch widescreen touch display; has a 30GB hard drive; and supports UMTS/HSDPA, GSM/GPRS/Edge, Bluetooth 2.0 and Wi-Fi connectivity.
The Advantage device includes UMTS/HSDPA support, as well as GSM/GPRS/Edge, Bluetooth 2.0 and Wi-Fi. It has built-in GPS navigation functionality, a 5-inch VGA touch display, 8GB hard drive, 256MB of ROM and 128MB of RAM. Additional memory storage can be supported through a miniSD card slot. Pricing on both devices was not announced.
Research In Motion (RIM) announced it would add APIs to its BlackBerry Java Development Environment to encourage more mobile application development for its devices. New APIs include mobile multimedia (JSR 135), which lets developers embed custom audio and video content into applications; camera APIs that let developers invoke as well as enable an application to be notified when a new photo is taken; support for MP3, WAV, WMA, AAC and AMR audio formats; and XML and Web services support for simplifying communications with existing Internet applications. RIM says more than 125,000 registered developers have downloaded the BlackBerry JDE.
Speaking of RIM, the company teamed up with InfoSpace to launch InfoSpace Find It for BlackBerry phones in North America. Users of BlackBerry's 8700 series, 7130 series, Pearl and the new 8800, among others, now can download the GPS-enabled application for free. The Find It application puts millions of listings into six categories tailored to the "on-the-go user": Dine Out, Go Out, Shop, Travel, Health and Services. The application combines spoken directions and GPS functions with local search to let users find nearby businesses, people and events. The download is available here or here .
Intermec announced availability of its EV-DO-capable CN3 mobile computer, a rugged handheld that has been certified for voice and data transmission on Sprint's Mobile Broadband Network. The CN3 lets users make voice calls, send data and manage documents; and has integrated GPS and Bluetooth, as well as Wi-Fi connectivity. The device includes Windows Mobile 5.0 support with Microsoft's Messaging and Security feature pack, including its direct push technology for wireless e-mail. Pricing and details weren't announced.
Palm announced a bunch of hands-free accessories for its Treo smart phones, including three car kits and a new combination GPS/speakerphone device. The Comfort Plus DSP Hands-free Car Kit (US$199) is available for users of the Treo 680 and 750; the Take&Talk DSP Cradle and CarTalk Hands-free Car Kit (US$259) supports owners of the Treo 680 and 750 and includes an extended antenna for greater network sensitivity; and the Take&Talk DSP Hands-free Car Kit Cradle (US$149) is designed for existing THB Bury UNI System 8 car kit users who want to upgrade to a Treo 650 or 700 series. The GPS Navigator Car Kit (US$299) has an integrated GPS receiver and a hands-free speakerphone, supporting the Treo 680 and 700p devices. Users can insert a 1GB memory card preinstalled with a map of the continental United States and Canada to launch the TomTom Navigator software. The receiver/speakerphone combination makes a separate GPS Bluetooth receiver unnecessary.
Speaking of Palm, the company said Treo 750 smart phone owners worldwide would be able to update to the Windows Mobile 6 Professional operating system later this year. In addition, AT&T customers will receive High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) capability with the update. Paired with Exchange Server 2007, the Windows Mobile 6 update will provide such e-mail enhancements as HTML-formatted messages, the ability to set out-of-office messages remotely, and live links to Microsoft SharePoint documents.
Microsoft revealed other vendor support commitments for Windows Mobile 6, which it announced at last month's 3GSM show in Europe. The company said AT&T would provide Windows Mobile 6 upgrades for the Samsung Blackjack and HTC 8525, as well as for the Treo 750. Other companies committed to Windows Mobile 6 include HP, LG Electronics, Motorola, Samsung and Sprint, Microsoft says, with products expected to begin in the second quarter of 2007.
SpinVox , which makes speech-to-text services for mobile users, announced its Spin-my-Blog mobile blogging service for North American customers. The service lets bloggers post spoken blog entries instantly from anywhere. By calling a designated Spin-my-Blog phone number, bloggers will be connected to their blog, and their spoken words will be converted to text and automatically posted live. The service is currently in carrier trials; consumers can try a free trial here . The company also provides voice-to-screen services, which lets users convert voice mail messages into text messages. The company announced its first U.S. carrier agreement with Cincinnati Bell on Feb. 28, and announced its first Canadian carrier agreement with SaskTel at CTIA Wireless. The company also is working with Skype to create voice-messaging services.
Networks In Motion and AAA teamed up on a new application: AAA Mobile is powered by NIM's location-based services platform, which provides GPS-enabled navigation, and AAA's TourBook information and roadside assistance services. AAA Mobile subscribers can use their cell phone to receive visual and audible directions to any travel destination in the United States. TourBooks provide information about points of interest, and include AAA Diamond-rated hotel and restaurant data, as well as locations that offer AAA member savings. If a user's vehicle breaks down, the application will note the GPS location, send the data to AAA and connect the user for roadside assistance at the press of a button.
SanDisk expanded its Memory Stick Micro (M2) line with a new 4GB card, which it says can hold as many as 1,000 songs, 2,000 high-resolution photos or 20 hours of MPEG-4 video. The card will be compatible with Sony Ericsson's new multimedia mobile phones, including devices in the Cyber-shot and Walkman series. The M2 card line will fit in an M2 slot, and will be backward-compatible with an optional Memory Stick Pro Duo adapter for devices with a Memory Stick slot. The card ships to OEMs in May and will be available in retail stores later in the year. Pricing was not announced.