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Firepad packages graphics for Palm OS clients

Network World Fusion

By John Cox

(IDG) -- Incorporating complex corporate graphics data, such as a maps, blueprints, medical images and technical diagrams, into Palm OS applications has been made easier with the latest release of mobile software from Firepad.

Version 2.0 of FirepadÔs Mobile Application Platform now lets end users enter data, capture barcode information and signatures, and send this data back to corporate applications. The features let handheld users launch business processes such as billing and order fulfillment, and query back-end servers more interactively than in the past. INFOCENTER
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Other changes include support for Secure Sockets Layer to aid in encrypting data, and support for various add-on memory card formats, including MemoryStick and Secure Digital.

The Firepad software has a server program, a PC program, and a client program that runs on the Palm. On a server, FirePublisher uses the companyÔs patent-pending technology to strip graphics out of HTML pages, encode and compress text and graphics, and transmit these to either the PC application, called FireConverter, or wirelessly to a Palm OS client application called FireViewer. The graphics are sent as links, and users can click on them to download the compact graphics file.

FireConverter works with the Palm cradle and HotSync software to move the data to the handheld. Once the graphics arrive on the Palm device, FireViewer is designed to quickly unpack, display, and manipulate them. Users can pan across the image, zoom out for a complete, though small overall view, and then with a stylus tap, they can zoom in for more detail. All of this is done extremely fast, according to Firepad CEO William Mitchell.

Although many other software programs are available to convert HTML into Palm OS or other formats, Firepad "is focused on high resolution graphics," says Jennifer DeMarzio, industry analyst for mobile and wireless at Summit Strategies, a Boston, Mass., advisory company for IT strategies.

"There's been a lot of 'dumbing down' of graphics for handhelds -- usually by substituting very low resolution pictures. There's less detail, so less data has to be transmitted over low-bandwidth links," she says.

Firepad's Mitchell says the software can store a 400x400-pixel image in about 15K bytes of memory. Even with a Palm OS handheld limited to about 8M bytes of RAM, "you can easily put hundreds of images of this size on a Palm," he says. Recently, add-in memory cards, based on various standards, have begun to appear on the market, and can boost memory capacity to 128M bytes.

Firepad Mobile Application Platform 2.0 is available now for Palm OS, with a version for Microsoft PocketPC software due by year-end. The server runs on Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000, while the clients run on Palm OS 3.0 and higher, Windows 98, 2000 and NT 4.0. Pricing starts at $3,000 for a 10-user license.


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