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Palm going unwired

PDA manufacturer moves towards Bluetooth

Palm has big plans to add wireless connectivity options to its popular handheld devices.

The plans include both the emerging Bluetooth personal area network technology and a new high-speed mobile network technology, which is currently being deployed by many operators of GSM (global system for mobile communications) networks.

Bluetooth connectivity will allow Palm devices to access the Internet via Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone handsets.

It will initially become available via attachable adapters, which the company plans to introduce in innovative form factors, according to Alexis Martial, Palm's director of engineering, Europe.

"Our Bluetooth rollout strategy is quite aggressive, but I can't give you any specific dates," Martial said.

To quickly add Bluetooth support to existing devices such as the Palm V, the company is looking at designing new casings featuring built-in Bluetooth connectivity. In future, Bluetooth may be integrated into the devices, he added.

By next year, Palm will also introduce add-on hardware modules that will support wireless Internet access over GPRS (general packet radio service), a packet-switched wireless technology that most of Europe's GSM operators are deploying to speed up data transmissions, Martial said.

The add-on modules will be followed before the end of 2001 by an integrated device with built-in GPRS support, he added.

While GSM technology to date has not been good enough in terms of its speed to provide a satisfactory user experience, Palm plans to take advantage of the faster data transmission speeds offered by GPRS to offer location-based services, Martial said.

While most GSM networks offer data transmission speeds of only 9.6Kbps (bits per second), GPRS is capable of offering speeds as high as 115Kbps, although, in reality, speeds will more likely be similar to the 56Kbps offered by wired modems.

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