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Handheld Device Add-ons Are Popular Products At PC Expo

New wireless local area network 802.11b products were among the hot handheld products shown at PC Expo here, as well as a broad array of third-party modules and accessories, mainly for Palm and Handspring handhelds.

As prices on wireless LAN technology fall, suppliers are rushing to migrate 802.11b technology from the PC cards currently available to CompactFlash and other formats suitable to a wider range of handheld PCs.

Xircom announced that it will offer the first 802.11b sled for the Palm, joining the Xircom 802.11b Springboard module for the Visor that launched in April. Casio also said it plans to offer 802.11b CompactFlash cards for its Cassiopeia handhelds later this year.

Xircom’s new Palm sled will be compatible with the m500 and m505, allowing wireless networking of 11Mbps and a range of 300 feet. It is expected to ship in July at a suggested retail price of $299.

One of the more unique handheld applications shown at PC Expo was a motion sensor for the Palm 500 series, called Move It, from MotionSense, Fremont, Calif. The company has developed an SDIO card that allows users to operate the Palm with one hand (eliminating the need for a stylus) by simply tilting the Palm backwards or forwards or from side to side.

The sensor card is intuitive according to the needs of the application. As an example, for a map application, tilting backward allows scrolling through menus to choose a map and then tilting sideways, allowing users to scroll through the maps. It allows 360-degree rotation so users can simply position their Palms so that the “destination point” is in the center of the map.

Move It is also expected to be used in gaming applications (as a wireless joystick). The company is working with third parties to bring it to market and said it should be available for the holidays at a price of less than $50.

Electric Fuel, based in New York, showed Instant Power, a plug-in accessory that can wirelessly and instantly charge a handheld, even if its battery is completely dead. Instant Power is a disposable cartridge that supplies up to three “almost full” charges. It uses fuel cell technology (employing zinc rather than hydrogen) and allows users to charge their phones on the go without plugging into a wall outlet.

The company first introduced Instant Power for cellular phones in January, and through July will begin shipping Instant Power for Palm 500 series handhelds, the HP Journada series, Casio Cassiopeia series, Handspring Visor Edge and Novatel Minstrel S wireless modems for Handspring and HP. The charger is available at Walmart, CompUSA and at $19.95 or $9.95 for a cartridge replacement.

New for the Handspring Visor is a MemPlug adapter that converts the Springboard expansion module to CompactFlash (CF). It provides up to 256MB of memory using a Type I CF card and will be available in July at a suggested retail price of $49.95. Portable Innovation Technology (PIT) of Hong Kong, which supplies MemPlug, is also expected to release a Secure Digital (SD) version in August.

Air Prime showed the first CDMA modem for the Visor that is 1x compatible. The SB 3000 modem currently operates with 14.4K CDMA digital cellular service but will also be compatible with 153K service when that is rolled out at the end of the year, the company said.

Portsmith of Boise, Idaho, debuted a 10 Mbps Ethernet cradle for the Handspring Visor, Visor Deluxe and Platinum, allowing users to synchronize their handhelds directly from the cradle, which plugs into a wall jack, rather than a PC. The Portsmith cradle is expected to ship in July at a suggested retail price of $199.

Also shown at PC Expo were several thumb keyboards (similar to that on the RIM Blackberry) for both the Palm and Handspring handhelds. These include the SnapNtype thumb pad and SnapNplay joystick, which slide over the bottom of the Visor, and a Thumbpad for the Palm V from Targus.