Web gadgets for the road warrior's toybox
Digital doodads put Web resources in our pockets.
January 20, 1999
by Peggy Watt
(IDG) -- The well-equipped road warrior can't sit through a movie without something beeping or buzzing before the flick is over.
The electronic chorus is getting louder, judging by the product selection at the International Consumer Electronics Show. And it could be confusing: You may wind up Web surfing on your phone and getting directions from your wristwatch. But by adding support for a few, primarily IP, standards, many devices can now take part in this broad web of communications.
Etak, a mapping company that already provides real-time traffic reports on its Web site, now offers other routes to the same information: Traffic Touch reports via 3Com's Palm Pilot and the Traffic Angel service through cell phones.
Etak's reports are drawn from the Metro Networks traffic watch that also serves many news outlets, and are available for more than two dozen metropolitan regions.
Basic traffic information via Etak is built into many cell phone services and the Palm Pilot, says Craig Lynar, Etak vice president of consumer sales and marketing. But users can opt for a custom service that lets them designate personal routes, as well as get directions, for $60 yearly. The service identifies the user's location from the wireless cell that transmits the inquiry.
A more specific and compact global positioning system was unveiled by Casio, which has added the function to a wristwatch. The Casio Global Positioning System watch can receive transmissions from 27 satellites to identify any position worldwide. It is smaller and lighter than handheld GPS devices and is aimed at the likes of mountain climbers and search-and-rescue personnel.
Casio showed a prototype at the show but expects to ship the watch this quarter priced at $200.
Let's get small
Motorola highlighted a selection of several dozen mini-applications that can run on its Smart Pager 1300 line of wireless devices.
The new programs include business tools like stock reports and airline flight status as well as weather report services and games. There are vertical applications such as a version of Black's Law Dictionary and access to a legal case database. And there are the old standbys, such as a calendar, calculator, phone book, and alarm.
Motorola has nurtured software development by seeding the FLEX operating system for its SP1300 pagers and encouraging independent developers to write programs for it. The pager has been shipping for about a year; users can mix and match the software.
Microsoft's Windows CE operating system is showing up on a variety of systems. Both Hewlett-Packard and Compaq are developing palm-size systems that run the color version of Windows CE. In all, a dozen vendors have announced handheld systems that run a color version of Windows CE, with Sharp, Hewlett-Packard, and Vadem already shipping products.
The core operating system needs only 300Kb of storage, says Lily Li, product manager for Microsoft's consumer applications group. Windows CE's so-called pocket applications -- such as a calendar, contact list, and task list -- will synchronize with Windows applications.
"Handhelds aren't meant to replace your laptop, but to act as e-mail machines with light applications," Li says.
In the early days of PCs, proponents predicted the machines would be as ubiquitous as telephones. But now some telephones are taking tasks formerly reserved for PCs.
Alcatel's Internet Screenphone, still in development for release late this year, sports a color touchscreen and Internet access. Its address book can hold up to 1000 entries, and, of course, you can dial entries with a click.
Users can customize the home page and use their own ISP or one that will come with the phone, says Karen Peck, Alcatel's marketing director. The package will be priced at less than $400.
Already shipping is Nortel's family of PowerTouch phones, which can't access Web sites -- although it has a wireless keyboard -- but can retrieve e-mail and voice-mail unattended. Nortel markets many different modules to attach to the telephone part of the unit; some have custom phone lists or vertical applications, and one supports multiple phone lines.
The new PowerTouch 470 module can combine the functions of its applications. For example, the user can designate on the calendar when the system should page a colleague and send an e-mail message. The unit is now shipping for less than $300.
Now all we have to do is remember to turn all these gadgets off before we go into the movies...
Back to the top
© 2000 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.