Phone Card Keeps Data Current

SAN MATEO (03/13/2000) - Mobile users generally juggle their everyday business activities among numerous mobile devices, including cell phones, handheld computers, and notebooks. But the danger of using multiple devices is that they can lack a network or Web connection and employ old data. This can lead to inconvenience or embarrassment, especially when dealing with clients.

Socket Communications Inc.'s Digital Phone Card Connection Kit, along with Microsoft Corp.'s Communication Kit software, provides a cost-effective, wireless solution to ease the data synchronization process among mobile Windows devices. With the Digital Phone Card, employees will benefit by easily linking their mobile devices and keeping their data synchronized -- while boosting productivity for themselves and others.

I'm impressed with this easy-to-use solution, which basically turns your data-capable phone into a wireless modem. The Digital Phone Card's chief drawbacks are that you need two devices (phone and computer) to achieve your wireless state, and it doesn't work with 3Com's Palm computers. Overall, I give it a score of Good.

The Digital Phone Card allows users with multiple mobile devices to send and receive e-mail, browse the Web, connect to an office network, and synchronize files. But you'll have to either upgrade the software of your cell phone or get a data-capable unit.

Socket Communications holds about 50 percent of the Windows CE wireless market.

A competitor, Xircom's Landline Modem, is another product that ships with the Microsoft Communication Kit.

The Digital Phone Card kit includes Microsoft Connection Wizard CD, Socket Digital Phone Card, Socket Cable, and Qualcomm phone with Sprint service. The Socket Card is a low-power plug-in that makes it easy to connect any Windows PDA (personal digital assistant) or notebook to data-capable CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) mobile phones from Nokia, Ericsson, Qualcomm, and Siemens.

With the Digital Phone Card, you won't need to use a modem. The CDMA phone plays that role. You'll also save power and extend the battery life of your mobile computer and phone. The Digital Phone Card fits in the CompactFlash slot of a Windows CE-based palm-size PC or handheld PC Pro. In addition, the card's Compact-to-PC Card adapter allows you to plug the Digital Phone Card into the PC Card slot of a Windows CE PC or a Windows 9x or NT notebook.

To test the kit, I used several mobile devices: a Qualcomm 1960 CDMA digital phone, a Hewlett-Packard Jornada 430 palm-size PC, and my notebook. The notebook and palm software installations were similar; I created dial-up connections for both units.

With Microsoft ActiveSync on my notebook, I could exchange information between my desktop computer and my mobile device; and Outlook 2000 helped me manage the usual e-mail and so on. Once linked, my mobile device and notebook were able to share files and display updated contacts, appointments, and tasks.

To make a data call, I attached the Digital Phone Card to the phone and my notebook. With my wireless link, I was able to browse the Web, send and receive e-mail, connect to an office network, and synchronize files without wires or worrying about my location. The only drawback I found was dealing with my notebook and the external components (cable and phone) whenever I wanted to move around.

Socket Communications' Digital Phone Card Connection Kit is a fine solution for keeping your mobile workforce productive. For Windows users who must keep two or more devices in sync, it earns a score of Good.

Ana Orubeondo is a senior analyst at InfoWorld. She can be reached at ana_orubeondo@infoworld.com.

THE BOTTOM LINE: GOOD

Digital Phone Card Connection Kit

Business Case: The Digital Phone Card Connection Kit, along with Microsoft's Connection Kit, allows mobile workers to wirelessly access data and synchronize applications among Windows devices. The wireless links and access to the latest data are big productivity boosts for users who can't be tied to their desks.

Technology Case: These kits convert a data-capable phone into a wireless modem, and synchronize data among devices using Microsoft Outlook 2000 and its ActiveSync software.

Pros:

+ Extended mobility

+ Provides a universal connection

+ Turns a data-compatible phone into a wireless modemCons:

- Two devices (computer and phone) needed for wireless links- Supports only Windows machinesCost: $99 for Digital Phone Card Connection Kit and Microsoft Communication KitPlatform(s): Supports Windows CE 2.x and later, Windows 9x, and Windows NTSocket Communications Inc., Newark, Calif.; (800) 552-3300; (510) 744-2700; www.socketcom.com.

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