Mobile Technologies Take Center Stage

Palm, Handspring, Dell, NEC and Nokia spearhead Comdex announcements.

Users looking for big things from little machines are getting special attention from vendors that are packing new technologies, ranging from digital audio players to cameras, into handhelds and phones.

The plethora of wireless and handheld technologies was a significant focus for visitors last week at the scaled-back Comdex show here. The shows MobileFocus kickoff event, a sort of show within the show, spotlighted the industrys newest offerings.

Palm Inc. last week announced a deal with RealNetworks Inc. that will let customers use Palms Tungsten T handheld computers as digital audio players. RealOne Player Mobile will be available for the Tungsten by the end of the year.

"Im interested," 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. "Often weve got lecture audio or video because students want to see [the lecture] after the fact."

Palm OS licensee Handspring Inc. also got in on the act, announcing U.S. availability of GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) support for its Treo device.

Meanwhile, Dell Computer Corp. became the latest licensee of Microsoft Corp.s Pocket PC operating system with the launch of its long-awaited, cost-effective Axim device. Baradet said hes looking forward to this product, too.

"Theyve fixed the things that should have been fixed on Pocket PC devices a while ago," Baradet said, adding that he thinks the Axims scrolling wheel makes it easier to operate than some of its competitors, and battery life seems promising.

In another boon for Microsoft, NEC Solutions (America) Inc. last week unveiled plans to introduce its first Tablet PC. The Versa LitePad, which runs on a central processor from Intel Corp., is due in the beginning of next year.

Nokia Corp., 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. It includes 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, or Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution. It also supports GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) in the 850MHz, 1800MHz and 1900MHz frequency bands. The 6200 features a color display and an ergonomically friendly keypad in which the keys are larger but closer together than in other phones, so the phone stays small.

The Nokia 7250 is the companys first "fashion phone" (meaning its tiny) that includes a digital camera, positioned in the back of the phone. The 7250 also 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 GPRS. It also includes a color screen.

Comdex in Hand

A rundown of mobile technology announcements in Las Vegas last week

  • Palm partners with RealNetworks to let Tungsten T users play digital audio
  • Handspring announces U.S. availability of GPRS support for Treo
  • Dell becomes latest licensee of Microsoft Pocket PC with new Axim device
  • NEC plans to introduce its first Tablet PC, the Versa LitePad, early next year
  • Nokia introduces 5100, 6100, 6200 and 7250 phones