Multi-tasking on a cellular level  

by Alan Zisman (c) 2002
First published in Business in Vancouver,  Issue # 653 April 30- May 6, 2002 GearGuide column

Convergence turns cell phone into personal organizer

Do you find yourself with less time but more gadgets? Are your belt, pockets, and purse weighed down with personal digital assistant, pager, cell phone and more? You're a candidate for convergence, the technology buzzword promising a new generation of gadgets that will do more with less. 

It's a phone, no, it's a PDA, no, it's...

Handspring has produced several generations of Visor PDAs, differentiated from run of the mill Palms by their Springboard expansion slot, allowing easy addition of modems, network cards, games, cameras, gps modules and more. A year ago, the company released the VisorPhone, a Handspring plug-in to turn a Visor into a cell phone. This early stab at convergence was never released in Canada; it turned a handy PDA into an awkward phone. 

Similarly, several cell phone manufacturers have tried to build a Palm PDA into a cell phone, giving consumers a bulky phone that was also an awkward PDA. 

With its new Treo 180, Handspring may have got it right. The company's goal was to make a Palm-powered gadget that worked well as a cell phone. Pocket-sized, it fits easily into one hand, and can be used one-handed. It can be used as a speaker-phone, with a headset, or with its lid flipped open in standard phone style. 

The phone functions integrate with the PDA software; you can use the standard Palm address book to access a huge quantity of phone numbers. Unlike typical Palm (and Palm clones like Visors or Sony Clie models), Treo sports a mini-keyboard: no need to learn the Graffiti alphabet or enter data with a stylus. Many people will find that this makes it much quicker to get up and running. 

(Handspring released a Graffiti-powered Treo 180G model in the U.S., but slow sales in that market have kept it out of Canada. The 180 models are monochrome; a colour model is currently in testing.) 

The Treo uses GSM and GPRS wireless technology platforms. It is being marketed by Rogers AT&T Wireless, for $749.99 with a two-year service plan, or $849.99 with a one-year plan. Service currently includes voice and two-way text messaging. Wireless web-browsing will be added at a later date. 

Search WWW Search

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan