Accessories Boost PDAs' Versatility

Once considered a dedicated computing appliance, personal digital assistants (PDAs) have rapidly become more general purpose than PCs ever were. While the original functions (calendar, address book, memo pad, and to-do lists) are still mainstays, accessories morph them into the solution of the moment. For example, with optional folding keyboards and snap-on modems they become a laptop surrogate. Other options include camera and global positioning attachments. Palm Inc.'s accessory catalog contains 35 pages of possibilities. Microsoft Corp., which recently announced an updated Pocket PC operating system for Palm's competitors, is emphasizing even more PC-like capability. Seeking to compete with the dominating presence of software for the Palm (3,000 applications by one count), Microsoft counters with compatibility with its own business software. Hewlett-Packard Co., with its new Jornada 545, is one of the first users of Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system. To add more value for business users Palm is partnering with solution providers such as Siebel Systems Inc., Tivoli Systems Inc., and Delphi Automotive Systems Corp. Siebel is integrating its eBusiness solution with the Palm address book, calendar, and to-do applications to allow users to synchronize data. The goal: to enable mobile workers, such as field sales and service, to increase customer satisfaction, says Bruce Cleveland, vice president, alliances, Siebel Systems. Enterprise management is the focus of the Tivoli alliance. Still in the planning stage is a range of mobile multimedia products and services that will come out of Palm's alliance with Delphi Automotive Systems. One proposal uses Palm's HotSync technology to transfer data between the Palm handheld and the docking station. With Delphi's voice technologies (speech recognition and voice synthesis) users will be able to listen and store data through voice commands.

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