Welcome to Reviews OnLine: MobileFocus
Advanced look at personal technology
by Rick Smith (June 26, 2000)


When: Monday, June 26, 2000
Where: Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street

The following companies presented their products at MobileFocus 2000:

Kyocera Wireless
Mobility Electronics

Read our previous coverage of
MobileFocus at Fall Comdex
and MobileFocus at PC Expo.

Compaq Presario 1400 Series Notebooks
Colorful, Affordable, Portable
Compaq unveiled the new Presario 1400 series of notebooks that sport a sculpted, translucent design in your choice of swappable color overlays: Emerald Green, Ruby Red, Amber Orange, Sapphire Blue and Amethyst Purple.

Another nifty feature (also aimed squarely at the back-to-school crowd) is one-touch digital audio playback that lets you jam to a groove even when the notebook is closed.

- Intel Celeron cpu
- 566 MHz to 600 MHz
- 64MB
- 6GB hard drive
- 13" DSTN or 13.3" TFT
- MP3 Player
- Color Kit options: choice of 4 colors
- Starts at $1499 


Dell Digital Audio Receiver
Digital upgrade for your analog stereo
If you are into the MP3 scene, Addicted to Sound is more than just the name of a 80's band; it's a condition of life that keeps you tethered to your PC (and its toy speakers) to hear your favorite tracks.

Want to crank up the volume (and audio fidelity) a bit? The new Digital Audio Receiver from Dell uses S3 Rio Audio technology to bridge the gap between your PC and your home stereo, allowing your PC to do what it does best (downloading and storing audio files) and allowing your stereo to do what it does best (serving up high-fidelity audio).

The $250 receiver retrieves audio files or streams from your PC through your house's existing phone line (no need to rewire your house) and converts your tunes to standard audio signals which you can feed to your home stereo or (thanks to the built-in amplifier) pipe directly into stand-alone speakers or headphones.

Since the whole thing works through a 10-megabit per second network protocol built on open standards for phone line (HPNA 2.0) or Ethernet networks, the receiver can handle even the fattest (or is that phat-est?) tracks or live streams.

Digital audio is hot and not about to go away soon. Dell's Digital Audio Receiver is a great way to let your analog stereo system join the party.

- distribute to other rooms via phone lines
- supports MP3 or Windows Media audio files
- connects to existing PC, stereo, and phone lines
- built-in amplifier
- back lit LCD: displays song, album, and artist
- 10-megabit per second PC connection for streaming audio
- infrared remote control
- works over HPNA 2.0 or Ethernet network
- available in August
- $199 with purchase of Dell Dimension PC
- $249 bought separately 


DeLorme demonstates Solus 2.0
DeLorme demonstrated their Solus Pro 2.0 software which offers a miniature GPS solution and color maps in the palm of your hand. Running under the Palm OS, Solus provides a nice looking solution, at about the same size as most auto manufacturer’s installed in-car navigation systems.

Solus, however, provides this at a gives more people the capability at a fraction of the cost and gives more people the capability to use satellite navigation without having to buy a new car. Selling for a mere $39.95, it is one-hundredth the sticker price of the GPS system in the 1999 Lexus! Available in Mid-July 2000.

I drove to PC Expo 2000 in New York, using GPS, and have probably logged over 10,000 road miles using satellite navigation - I wouldn’t go on ANY long trip without using one even though I can read maps and have a good sense of direction. 


Sytlistic 3400
Fujitsu demonstrated several major additions and enhancements to their Lifebook notebook computers, but the latest Stylistic pen computer, the 3400, caught my eye. Being an avid pen computer using for over 5 years, this 400 MHz Pentium III pen computer can give you the computational power, processing capability and storage capacity that you have on your desk, when you are walking around. It features a 6 GB drive, color display with outdoor viewability and audio output.

What truly separates this pen computer from other “smaller” pen based systems is that the 3400 runs “real” Windows and you have the choice of three - Windows 98, Windows 2000 Professional or Windows NT4 workstation.

By using a passive pen (much like a Wacom tablet) and not using only pressure sensitivity for handwriting and control, the 3400 lets you rest your hand on the screen during writing. No longer do you have to hold your palm off the screen, while you write, like you must in many of the large format CE devices. 


IBM's 1-Gigabyte Microdrive
Massive storage in a miniscule package
IBM's new Microdrive introduced this week offers the same portable virtues as its 340MB predecessor but with three times the capacity (a full gigabyte).

Just plug the roomy drive into any device with a compatible CompactFlash+ Type II or PCMCIA slot (using an adapter), and you'll gain vast quantities of space for your applications, images, or digital audio files.

Amazingly, the new drive is less of a drain on your batteries than the previous models and has a 50% higher shock rating than before.

The new 1GB Microdrive will retail for less than $500 while a 512MB model will sell for under $400. Those prices help keep IBM's Microdrives on top as just about the cheapest (per megabyte) and highest capacity option for demanding portable storage.

Companies with compatible devices include:
Acer, Casio, Kodak, Fujifilm, Hewlett-Packard, i2Go, Minolta, Nikon, Psion, RICOH, and Sanyo. 


Intel DotStation
Turnkey Web appliance
Intel is promoting its new, turnkey Web appliance for service providers called the DotStation. It is basically an iMac-like device that e-commerce institutions or ISPs can give away, sell or lease to their customers.

In true, thin-client tradition, the DotStation won't include a CD-ROM drive or removable storage of any kind but can be remotely updated via the Web. But, otherwise, the DotStation is hardly crippled since it includes a 300 or 500 MHz Celeron and a 4.3 GB hard drive.

Another interesting feature is that the DotStation includes not just a 56Kbps modem but a built-in telephone. This suggests some interesting possible markets for the device. For example, your broker might give you a "free" DotStation that just happens to boot up showing your fluctuating portfolio. The built-in phone then becomes your instant hotline to the broker for conducting vocal trades.

Whatever its application, the DotStation is an interesting development showing that Intel is waking up to a whole Web-centric, non-Windows world.


- Availability: Fall 2000
- Price: Unannounced
- Software: custom version of Red Hat Linux
- CPU: Intel Celeron (300 MHz to 400 MHz),
- RAM: 32MB
- Storage: 4.3GB hard disk
- 56-kbps modem
- Keyboard w/ integrated track pad
- 14" CRT 1024x768 (800x600 for web browsing)
- Built-in telephone
- Remote updates and trouble-shooting 


Peek at Sony PDA
Prototype Under Glass
When a giant whispers, you listen. Case-in-point: Sony's much anticipated press conference about its first foray into PDA territory was arguably the most highly anticipated event of PC Expo.

So, you can imagine all the drooling journalists lapping up whatever scraps of information Sony cared to dish out. Well, we love speculative journalism as much as the next rag, so here we offer the information scraps and speculative drool from the event.

The Scraps:

Sony is developing a Palm OS based PDA as a result of a recent licensing agreement with Palm Computing. They showed off a prototype-under-glass, as it were, and an artist's rendering (above).

Other than the OS, we learned little except that it will feature a color display, a Memory Stick(TM) slot in the top and a Jog Dial(TM) on the side for one-handed, scroll-and-select operations.

The prototype's dimensions were quoted as being 23/4" (W) x 4 1/2" (H) x 5/8" (D).

Sony also hinted (ever so slyly) at "digital imaging capabilities."

The Drool:

  ...the anticipation.

Imagine Sony...
  ...hitting the same consumer electronics nerve as it has with the Walkman, PlayStation, Mavica.

Imagine Sony doing a PDA...
  ...with the same craftsmanship and clean design it has shown in its other products.

Imagine Sony doing a Palm-OS PDA...
  ...based on the proven, leading handheld platform with features and a form factor already embraced fervently by consumers.

Imagine Sony doing a Palm-OS PDA with digital imaging features...
  ...so vaguely hinted at but so full of promise.

The Guesses:

Picking the Palm OS was a master stroke but did not require much imagination. After all, Sony was able to sit back and watch last Fall as the demand for the HandSpring Visor outpaced manufacturing capacity.

So, assume they got the design, technical specs, and manufacturing right (come on, this is Sony we're talking about), then they'll have a solid PDA contender, no doubt.

But, what special something might emerge to make this either a category dominator or resounding dud?

The one Achilles' heel could be the Memory Stick(TM) which Sony is stubbornly promoting throughout its product lines despite its sparse acceptance in the marketplace. I think they see the Sony PDA as the great integrator that bridges between their other Memory Stick(TM) products.

If they are right, the PDA will be everyone's excuse to buy other Sony products and gobs of Memory Sticks(TM). On the other hand, people might sense the lock-in strategy and decide that a different Palm PC with a CompactFlash slot offers more freedom. You can't plug a 1GB IBM Microdrive in a Memory Stick(TM) slot, now can you?

But, any downside could be trumped by other gotta-have-it factors. For instance, the Jog Dial(TM) is oh-so cool because it enables cell-phone-like one-handed operation. But, other PDA's sport similar controls or will emulate them quickly.

So, where's the zinger, the draw-dropping, killer feature? Clearly, the tease about "digital imaging capabilities" is Sony's ace-in-the-hole. But, what could that mean?

At minimum, I think it means you'll be able to pop in a Memory Stick(TM) into your Sony PDA hot from your late-model Mavica digital camera or Sony camcorder and review and/or edit your images. OK, that's a nice to have, not a gotta-have.

We've come to expect more from Sony. So, if I was to speculate what "digital imaging" features Sony's PDA will have, I'd venture this:

Consider that nearly every digital camera includes a video out port. The components for this must already be darned cheap and small.

Consider, too, that the Macromedia Flash engine has already been ported to the Palm platform.

So, my wild guess and/or heartfelt wish is:

Sony will add a video-out port and bundle lightweight presentation software with the device.

Such a bold move would simultaneously make the Sony PDA a must-have, portable presentation tool among the roadshow/sales crowd as well as among proud Mama's and Papa's showing off vacation photos.

We'll have to wait and see. But, if Sony follows its media convergence instincts far enough, the Sony PDA could be a breakthrough multimedia integrator that lives up to the hype and becomes the gadget everyone will want in hand.

Addendum (2000-July-24):

Alas, the latest specs of the Sony PDA suggest that the digital imaging feature alluded to above will be the ability to play digital video. While that's nice and keeps the Sony PDA on a par with Pocket PCs, we can always hope that Sony will inject a few unannounced surprises (like my suggestion above) into the production model or a later model. 


Want to see all this page in a more compact form? View the linked version of this article. It's a smaller download than this page, and each product's information is only a link away.

Copyright © 2006 Rick Smith All rights reserved.

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