Wireless Becomes De Rigueur for Handhelds

SAN MATEO (06/30/2000) - Wireless services and devices continue to dominate the news in the high-tech industry as companies such as BellSouth Corp., Microsoft Corp., Palm Inc. Computing, and others launch a steady stream of products targeted mainly at corporate users.

BellSouth will take its packet switch Wireless Data Network, known mainly as an interactive paging technology, and expand it to access Internet applications via pagers and handhelds, company officials said this week at PC Expo.

The Atlanta-based service provider will partner with Neomar, a San Francisco-based supplier of WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) microbrowsers, to give users of the Research In Motion Ltd. devices access to selected Web-based sites and enterprise applications.

Developers will be able to give pager users WAP-enabled applications such as SFA (sales force automation) programs, written to the WML (Wireless Markup Language) specification, without having to rewrite to another protocol.

Wireless Knowledge LLC, a San Diego-based company that was created by Microsoft and Qualcomm Inc. and that offers its Workstyle Server product for wireless access into Exchange server, will announce later this year a partnership that will enable wireless access to a major SFA application, according to Eric Schultz, chairman and CEO of Wireless Knowledge.

However, according to Tim Scannell, a research analyst at Mobile Insights, in Quincy, Massachusetts, too many users are locked into the "tiny device syndrome" and are asking these devices to do too much. "Users are really pushing the envelope when they are asking to access mainframe information over a pager," Scannell said.

Nevertheless, in the battle for handheld dominance, wireless capability is no longer a differentiator but now appears to be a "must have" feature.

Palm officials announced at PC Expo this week the company's Mobile Internet Kit, a software upgrade that lets the Palm use the dialer of a cell phone via an infrared link between the two devices. With a connection to the Internet, users can access wireless-enabled Web sites, as well as mail and messaging, officials said.

The kit will cost less than $50 and be available by the end of the year.

Microsoft's Pocket PC OS offers a similar two-step process for cellular Internet access via infrared.

Also at PC Expo in New York, OmniSky Corp. announced that it will extend its wireless data network service to HandSpring Inc.'s Visor PDA (personal digital assistant) via a wireless modem created for the Visor's Springboard expansion slot. Later this year, HandSpring will announce a cellular modem module for the same Springboard expansion slot, according to a source familiar with the company's plans.

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