The Almanac

An eclectic collection of research and resources. By Mitch Betts

A 5GB Hard Drive Debuts for Mobile Devices

Need to carry a few thousand graphics, audio or text files on the road? Tokyo-based Toshiba Corp. recently unveiled a portable 5GB hard disk drive with Bluetooth wireless technology that can be accessed from any Bluetooth device. The HopBit went on sale Nov. 1 in Japan for about $410, but there are no immediate plans to sell it elsewhere.

- Martyn Williams, IDG News Service

Speakeasy ProvidesDevice Interoperability

Palo Alto Research Center Inc. (PARC) has developed a collection of protocols, called Speakeasy, to allow end users to make a wide variety of wireless devices interact with one another in ad hoc ways, without writing any code.

Each device would need a Speakeasy virtual machine inside to make it work, but the result would be a powerful tool for on-the-go corporate employees, says Richard Burton, manager of PARC's distributed systems unit in Palo Alto, Calif.

Portable 5GB hard disk drive with Bluetooth wireless technology
Portable 5GB hard disk drive with Bluetooth wireless technology
For example, a sales executive with a wireless personal digital assistant (PDA) could walk into conference room, and the PDA in "discovery mode" would list all of the devices available, including the PowerPoint projector. Using a Speakeasy interface, the user could drag and drop his PowerPoint presentation on the projector and then download software making the PDA act as the projector's remote control.

Burton likens Speakeasy to HTTP, the protocol that enables connections and data transfers among disparate computers on the Web. Speakeasy provides the same sort of basic interoperability for wireless devices. For example, you could walk up to a printer with your PDA and download the printer driver needed to print out a complex document from your PDA.

PARC is now on its third-generation prototype of Speakeasy and is looking for corporate partners.

Patent Watch

• Audio feedback when pressing wireless device keypads. This invention triggers a distinctive sound—not just a monotone beep—that identifies which key was pressed on a cellular phone, which could be useful when working in the dark or driving. For example, pressing the 2 key could generate two chimes or a synthesized voice saying "two."

- U.S. Patent No. 6,477,390, issued Nov. 5

Inventors: Arnold J. Gum and Jason B. Kenagy at Qualcomm Inc. in San Diego, Calif.

Research Roundup

• Major wireless carriers are facing a market shakeout in the next 12 months, driven by market saturation and huge debt loads, says Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn. The wireless voice market is still growing in China, but Europe, North America and South America are reaching saturation, with most new subscribers using prepaid plans or viewed as poor credit risks.

• The average time to resolve a wireless user's call to the IT help desk is 3.63 hours, compared with 3.16 hours to resolve a wired user's call, according to a survey conduced by CIO magazine.

• Don't underestimate the human factor in mobile deployments, says Carl Zetie, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. It's easy for remote users to sabotage a project, so consider work processes, culture and support issues. Minimize resistance by establishing incentives for adoption and eliminate barriers to adoption, he says.

• Dataquest Inc. in San Jose says tablet PCs will represent only 1% of worldwide notebook shipments next year.

Wireless E-Mail: Really Necessary?

Watch out for the status seekers who want wireless e-mail service to look important but don't really need it, says Peter Lowber, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. Provide wireless e-mail only to users who are on the road more than 50% of the time and have an urgent need for it, such as executives, financial analysts and sales reps who need it to make critical investment decisions or stay on top of multimillion-dollar deals, he says.

"Because we estimate that less than 10% of employees fit these criteria, wireless e-mail deployments in the enterprise should be small," Lowber says.

Indiscriminate deployment of wireless e-mail will raise IT costs, increase e-mail box clutter and might even reduce productivity, he says. For those middle managers who travel only occasionally, Lowber suggests they use their cell phones for urgent tasks when they're on the road.


Road Warrior Vest

The eVest from Scott eVest LLC in Chicago has 22 pockets for a wide variety of gadgets, plus channels in the lining for wiring up a personal-area network or recharging. Frequent fliers may find it to be a convenient way to keep their devices handy and get through security checkpoints faster (by placing the gadget-loaded vest in the security scanner), says Daniel Rasmus, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc.
Road Warrior Vest

What Users Want

Corporate customers say that wide geographic coverage is much more important than pricing for wireless carrier services.

Complete regional or national coverage 73.5%
Service pricing 25.3%
International roaming/coverage 8.2%
Wireless Internet and data services 8.1%
Handset selection and price 2.0%
BASE: Survey of 122 enterprise wireless customers; multiple responses allowed

Source: Gartner Inc., Stamford, Conn., May 2002

Special Report

Tiny Gadgets, Huge Costs

Stories in this report:

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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