Future of Portable Power

Mobile products from Dell, Nokia, Microsoft flood Comdex.

If the annual gathering of technologists and technology that is Comdex/Fall is any indicator of things to come, wireless computing will continue its drive into the enterprise, where smaller, more manageable hardware resides.

Hardware manufacturers, wireless providers and software developers, including Dell Computer Corp., Nokia Corp. and Microsoft Corp., to name a scant few, were on hand here last month to tout new and future products designed for comfort and mobility.

On the handheld front, Dell announced itself as the latest licensee of Microsofts Pocket PC operating system with the launch of its Axim 5 handheld. The device will sell in two configurations for $199 and $299, after a $50 rebate. The more expensive version is equipped with a 400MHz Intel Corp. Xscale processor with 64MB of synchronous dynamic RAM and 48MB of ROM. The less expensive model has a 300MHz chip and less memory.

Officials said the Round Rock, Texas, company will release two new Axim models next year—the X3 and the X7. Dell is also looking to integrate Bluetooth and 802.11 wireless LAN access next year.

Dell has "fixed the things that should have been fixed on Pocket PC devices a while ago," said Kevin Baradet, network systems director of technology services at the S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., and an eWeek Corporate Partner. Baradet said he thinks the Axims scrolling wheel makes it easier to operate than some of its competitors, and the battery life seems promising.

Nokia, which is known for novel designs, introduced several phones that will launch in the first quarter of next year, according to company officials in Espoo, Finland. The Nokia 5100 is a ruggedized handset geared toward a diverse audience, including such features as a thermometer, a calorie counter, a sound-level meter and a flashlight.

The Nokia 6200 is one of the worlds first 3GPP, or 3rd Generation Partnership Project, phones to support EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution). It also supports GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) in the 850MHz, 1800MHz and 1900MHz frequency bands. The Nokia 7250 is the companys first "fashion phone" (meaning its tiny) that includes a digital camera—it sits in the back of the phone. In addition, it supports three bands of GSM.

The Nokia 6100, at 2.7 ounces, is the lightest Nokia phone ever. It supports Java and Multimedia Messaging Service and runs triband GSM and General Packet Radio Service. It includes a color screen.

Color displays are expected to be par for the course throughout the industry in the near future.

Other technologies that garnered attention here were flat-panel desktop displays. BenQ Inc., CTX International Inc. and ViewSonic Corp. were all on hand with new products.

BenQ, formerly Acer Peripherals and the second-largest supplier of LCDs in the world, released the FP591 15-inch flat-panel desktop display. The FP591 supports 500-nits super brightness, allowing for exceptional video support of TV and DVD/VCD movies, said officials in Taipei, Taiwan.

BenQ also released the SL705X digital projector that supports digital compression and dithering up to 1,280-by-1,024-pixel resolution. The 3.8-pound device can display onto screens of up to 60 inches and up to 6.6 feet away. In addition, the company shipped the Blue Jay optical storage unit for added, mobile storage.

CTX, another display manufacturer, launched at Comdex a line of flat-panel desktop units ranging from the $473, 17-inch, thin-film-transistor S730 to the 23-inch H2300 panel that sells for an estimated street price of $2,411. The company, based in City of Industry, Calif., also released its PS-5140 digital projector for an estimated street price of $1,559.

A forthcoming wireless desktop product from ViewSonic, the Smart Display, was the talk of the town. Unlike the Tablet PCs that the Walnut, Calif., company is building, the Smart Display is not a PC but a flat-panel display with wireless connectivity to the desktop PC. Through a touch-screen, users will be able to navigate the Web and read e-mail, among other things.

Also coming is a new application from Microsoft for capturing and organizing notes. Called OneNote and due next year, the Microsoft Office application will let users store, navigate and search personal or business notes, according to Jeff Raikes, group vice president of productivity and business services at the Redmond, Wash., software developer.

"Note taking as a metaphor has been relatively underserved in software," Raikes said during a press conference. "OneNote is one location to bring together all your note taking."