Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Handheld Computers Flourish at PC Expo Trade Show

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Handheld Computers Flourish at PC Expo Trade Show

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- People who can't stop gushing over how much their handheld electronic organizers can do may soon have more to extol. New handhelds and new features for them were one of the hottest attractions at the PC Expo trade show last week.

Market leader Palm Inc. demonstrated how its handhelds will be able to access the Web and e-mail through cell phones, and said future models will be equipped with slots for tiny memory cards that can turn the devices into voluminous encyclopedias.

With software to be sold later this year, most of the nearly 7 million Palm handhelds sold so far will be able to connect to the Internet through cell phones with infrared ports or special cables.

Cell phones with infrared ports, which can send and receive data much like TV remotes, are common in cell-phone-crazed Europe but only a few models are sold in the United States.

For those accustomed to using the Palm on the go, the infrared option will be a little awkward, since both hands are needed to line up the ports on the devices unless they are lying on a table.

Connecting Palm and cell phone will likely be easier with the cable, which connects to the bottom of both devices. The phone can be left in a pocket, leaving two hands free for the Palm. Since cell phones have different sockets, each model will need a different cable. Palm demonstrated Internet access with a cable for the popular Qualcomm Thin Phone.

Palm owners will not need a separate Internet account for their Palms; they can dial into their regular ISPs. However, their surfing will be limited to sites that support "Web clippings," pages abbreviated and formatted to fit the Palm screen.

Web clippings are used by the Palm VII, which has a built-in wireless modem and has been on sale for about a year. About 400 sites provide the services.

Palm has been careful to keep its devices small, a major competitive advantage versus the handhelds that use Microsoft operating systems. The expansion slot planned for coming models is small enough to fit in the 0.4-inch thick Palm V. It will accommodate Secure Digital Cards, about the size of a postage stamp, which can store as much as 64 megabytes.

Alan Kessler, Palm's chief operating officer, said the cards could contain books, music, corporate databases and programs.

"It's going to open up a whole lot of applications that are going to delight our customers," he said at the trade show. …

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