Pocket PC Learns Wireless Ways

AUSTIN, TEXAS (05/23/2000) - Microsoft Corp.'s original goal was to put a PC in every home, but the company's new "anytime, anywhere, on any device" slogan centers on wireless access. And no device is more apt for wireless communications than Pocket PC.

Opening WirelessAgenda 2000 here this week, Microsoft and its partners showcased the wireless future of Pocket PC as well as the currently available wireless access to Microsoft's Exchange messaging server.

What's Next

Nextcell is adding wireless capabilities to Pocket PC using CompactFlash.

Expected in the fourth quarter, Pocket Spider is a Cellular Digital Packet Data modem add-on that plugs into the CompactFlash slot, which is standard on Pocket PCs from Compaq, Casio; and Hewlett Packard.

"With CDPD modem capability, you can use Pocket Internet Explorer for real-time access to the Web," says Matt Glover, senior marketing engineer at Nextcell.

"We're also going to integrate a GPS receiver."

But if you don't want to wait that long, Novatel Wireless plans to ship a wireless modem for the HP Jornada Pocket PC in August. Novatel's CDPD modem carries a hefty price tag of around $369.

Microsoft isn't the only handheld platform with wireless access in mind.

Novatel already offers a $329 wireless modem for the Palm III, and in August the company expects to ship a $369 modem for the color Palm IIIc and a $329 springboard add-on for the Handspring Visor. Nextcell also plans to offer a CompactFlash modem add-on when TRG ships a Palm-based device with CompactFlash support.

Wider Wireless

Microsoft's wireless plans extend beyond Pocket PCs to other wireless devices and to its Web content like MSN, Hotmail, and BCentral.

With Windows 2000, Windows CE, and Mobile Explorer, Microsoft covers most classes of mobile devices, says Mark Ledsome, general manager of Microsoft Mobile Internet Business Unit.

Partners also provide wireless access to Microsoft products.

Research in Motion's Blackberry system offers wireless access to Microsoft Exchange on the $399 RIM 950 and the $499 palm-size 957 for $39.99 a month.

"Blackberry service licenses airtime from BellSouth Wireless Data," says David Shifman, a spokesperson for RIM. The service offers two browsers: Go America's Go.Web HTML browser and a wireless application protocol-compliant browser from NeoMar, he adds.

Down to Business

Pocket PCs are not just for consumers. Symbol Technologies develops the devices for industrial uses. In the works are Symbol Pocket PCs with bar code scanners plus local and wide area wireless connectivity.

One health care company wants to develop a wireless Pocket PC to monitor the administration of drugs, says Robert Schreib, the company's senior manager of software marketing. "A doctor could scan your wrist band, then scan the drug and check for interactions."