By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
More new products and services have been announced to deliver wireless e-mail and Web access to portable devices.
Companies making the announcements include Arch Wireless, Microsoft's MSN, Novatel, Motient, Yahoo and Verizon.
For Palm's new SD-slot-equipped M500 PDA, Novatel developed a CDPD radiomodem sled and a separate GPRS sled. Another new sled turns the Palm V or Vx into a wireless phone.
Novatel's CDPD sled is due in late April or May and will be available as low as $99 during promotions. The GPRS model is due at the end of the second quarter through wireless ASPs such as OmniSky. It's capable of downloads up to about 57.6kbps and uploads of 43.2kbps. Pricing was unavailable.
Unlike current Novatel sleds for Palm devices, the new sleds will feature stub versus whip antenna. The new models will also boost battery life by 30 percent to 12 hours of continuous data use and reduce weights by 15 percent to 3.85 ounces. The sled also has been redesigned to allow simultaneous charging of the Palm and the Novatel sled. It also features a single button that not only disconnects subscribers from the OmniSky service but also shuts down the modem, replacing a two-step process.
In the second or third quarter, Novatel plans commercial availability of a Palm V and Vx sled that accepts a PC Card-size 1.9GHz CDMA transceiver, which will turn the Palm devices into wireless phones and permit 14.4Kbps circuit-switched wireless-data transfer. The card will be upgradable to CDMA 1X with a software upgrade that subscribers can install.
Voice calls can be made only with a hands-free headset. Users will be able to dial from the Palm contact list or through an on-screen virtual keypad.
The card will be subsidy-locked onto the Sprint network and will come with a Jabra headset.
Novatel said the price would be competitive with the $299 GSM wireless-phone module available from Handspring for its Visor PDA.
For its part, wireless-data carrier Motient plans to extend its eLink Fortified With Yahoo! service to the big-screen RIM 857 wireless handheld from Research In Motion. The service will be available in the second quarter, complementing service for the small-screen RIM 850. Initial retailers include the Micro Center retail chain,
For its Yahoo service, Motient pushes Yahoo e-mail and personalized content to subscriber devices, which also deliver access to Yahoo instant messaging (IM). Users who make changes to the device's calendar and contact list automatically synchronize the changes with a personal calendar and contact list residing on Yahoo's servers. Motient also equips the 850 and 857 with a WAP microbrowser.
Service is $34.95/month for unlimited use. The device's suggested retail is $549 before a $50 rebate.
Yahoo and carrier Verizon, meantime, struck a deal in which Yahoo's IM service will be optimized for Verizon phone users beginning in April. Yahoo's services will also appear on Verizon phone menus for easy access, making it unnecessary for users to manually bookmark Yahoo's site on their phones.
Yahoo subscribers are already able to access IM service through any microbrowser-equipped phone if they log onto the mm.yahoo.com site. When the service is optimized with the cooperation of a wireless carrier, however, IM subscribers are notified with audible and visual alerts when someone on their buddy list is trying to send them a message. Without the alerts, a user must refresh his phone screen every so often to determine if a buddy is trying to reach him, said Anurag Mendhekar, products and technology director for Yahoo's Yahoo! Everywhere program.
Optimized Yahoo IM service is also available on Motient-network devices and, when loaded with a Yahoo IM client program, on wireless-equipped Palm and Windows CE devices, Mendhekar said.
In another Verizon development, the carrier has begun offering Mobile Office kits that let users connect Motorola StarTAC and Kyocera 2035a phones to PDAs and portable computers. The $69 kits include cable, adapter and software. They're available through the company's 1,400 Communications Stores, its website and a toll-free number.
Meantime, Arch Wireless and MSN announced plans for second-half availability of a Motorola T900 two-way pager that accesses a user's MSN Hotmail and MSN Messenger instant messaging service.
The marketing agreement calls for distribution of an MSN-branded T900 for three years. It's equipped with a QWERTY keyboard.
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