Internet World: Handspring grabs the spotlight
NEW YORK (IDG) -- Judging from the number of third-party expansion products at the Handspring booth here, and the size of the crowd gawking at them, the direction in which handheld computing is headed may be summed up in one word: add-ons.
Handspring announced its Visor handheld product family to the press three weeks ago, but the Internet World show held here this week was the first time the public got a chance to see it.
There are also several new add-on products for the Visor being announced here, among them a wireless communications module from startup Widcomm, which claims to be the first company to be able to demonstrate wireless technology from the Bluetooth alliance running on a handheld device.
In all, 20 companies are at the Handspring booth offering add-ons, or "expansion products," in Handspring terminology. These include pagers, global positioning systems, MP3 audio players, voice recorders, smart-card readers, field-data collection modules, games, and cameras.
The Handspring family itself comprises the Visor Solo, priced at $149; the Visor, priced at $179, and the Visor Deluxe priced at $249. The Solo will be available for ordering over the Internet, with delivery this quarter, and the other two products are slated to be shipped through retail channels next year.
The Handspring product series is based on 3Com's Palm Computing technology. The founders of Handspring previously worked at 3Com developing the original PalmPilot, and licensed the Palm technology to develop the Visor and its complementary Springboard technology. Springboard gives the handheld devices their expansion capabilities.
The Visor can run the same wide range of applications that run on the Palm OS, and comes equipped with the core applications that Palm users have come to expect, including: address book, memo pad, expense tracker, and e-mail manager. But what has captured the attention of show attendees are the array of products on display that snap into the Springboard slot on the back of the Visor.
"This is the highlight of the show, this is the future of handheld computing right here," said Michael Schneider, president of Integrated Information Business Systems (IBIS), a computing consultancy based in New Haven, Conn. "The Springboard expansion slot will do to handheld computers what the PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) expansion slot did for PCs -- it opens the door to a whole new realm of possibilities."
The free Springboard kit, and the willingness of 3Com to license the Palm technology, will help build widespread support for the platform, potentially at the expense of Microsoft's Windows CE operating system for consumer devices, according to Schneider.
In addition to the variety of companies that announced Visor add-on products at the company's premiere for the press last month, several companies have just announced products this week here at the show.
San Diego-based Widcomm, for example, previewed what it claims to be the first Bluetooth application for a handheld device, the Blue-Connect module. Bluetooth is a wireless communication specification designed to allow mobile phones, personal digital assistants and PCs to connect via short-range radio links. The technology is being backed by an alliance of more than 1,000 telecommunications and computer companies.
Widcomm's Blue-Connect module will let Visor users update contact information, and download calendar items and e-mail, over radio links to other devices that incorporate the Bluetooth specification. It will also let Visor users send messages to each other, wirelessly, over distances up to 30 feet. Widcomm also demonstrated a base station, via which multiple Blue-Connect equipped Visors can hook up to the Internet. The company expects to deliver Blue-Connect by mid-2000; pricing has not been set. The company gave no date for release of a base station product.
Other new Visor add-on modules announced this week for availability later in the quarter, include the following products (for which pricing was not immediately available):
Marc Ferranti is news editor for the IDG News Service in New York.
Visor maker expects Springboard to jump-start new PDA
RELATED IDG.net STORIES:
Handspring Visor somersaults over the Palm
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.