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The Cell Phone-PDA Revolution 98

bdavenport writes "Several sites have stories on the unification of cell and PDA technology. Check out MSNBC and Wired. " This whole handheld convergence thing is an area where the Europeans seem to be well ahead of the U.S. - and everyone else. I still like my big monitor and keyboard, though. The WWW on a palm-sized screen seems to lose some of its flavor.
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The Cell Phone-PDA Revolution

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  • by grungeKid ( 4260 ) on Tuesday September 28, 1999 @05:40AM (#1653959) Homepage
    If you think of mobile internet access as the web, only smaller,
    slower and worse, you're missing the point. Sure, accessing the WWW
    via a handheld can be a great timekiller on the train, but the real
    promise of connected mobile computing its that it allows the
    introduction of computers and associated benefits in areas where you
    normally don't see computers at all: think of doctors making the
    rounds and having instant access to their patients journals, salesmen
    that always can check the inventory and place orders from anywhere,
    construction workers who have instant access to instructions, work
    flow, incoming deliveries etc.

    And you people who whine that if everyone wrote correct HTML 4.0, the
    whole world would be nice and rosy: Give it a rest! For example, the
    kind of information that you want on a PDA or cell phone display is
    drastically different than what you want on a normal computer
    screen. For example, the normal Slashdot front page might be perfect
    HTML 4.0 Strict, but it still doesn't display great on a PDA because
    of the navigation sidebars, slashboxes and other stuff that doesn't
    make sense on a PDA. And you certainly don't want to download 50k of
    HTML on todays wireless links (between 1.2 and 9.6 kbps,
    typically). XML, combined with different XSL style sheets for
    adopting the information to different requirements, goes a long way to
    make things better here. WML (The markup language of WAP, Wireless
    Application Protocol) builds on, and improves the HTML concepts with a
    number of very useful concepts (Deck of cards and variable
    substitution, to name a few). HTML simply cannot adapt to these kinds
    of requirements.

    One last thing, about the eventual merge of the PDA and the cellphone:
    A lot of people seem to take for granted that a solution where
    different devices each do one thing well (voice communication,
    display, computing, storage, wireless/radio connectivety, to name a
    few things), is the only sane way to go. If bluetooth (for the lower
    layers of communication) and Jini or Universal PnP (for the upper
    layers) take of, we might indeed see this vision become reality. But
    there will always be room for an end-all solutions that does all of
    these things in an integrated unit, with excellent integration between
    the different capabilities (check out the Nokia 9110, for example). If
    configuring your personal BAN (Body Area Network) becomes as
    complicated as getting a Windows PC, a Linux Box and a Mac to share
    files, printers and outside network connections, then we really
    haven't learned anything about usability in the last 15 years....
  • You'll find more information on Nokia 9110 from [].

    Nokia 9110 Communicator is a nifty little thing, has both advantages and disadvantages to the Psion S5/Ericsson SH888 combo I use.

    Having the phone integrated with the PDA is nice because you don't have to worry about IR eyes being messy, and you can type more easily while walking, etc. Of course Bluetooth will make that possible also with separated units.



  • Check your urls. It's AvantGo [] (no "d") and ProxiNet [] (with an "i", now a "y").
  • What I want is a wrist-watch with an LCD matrix display, mobile connectivity to the 'net, touch screen, and a built-in voice-response chip. I don't really care what OS it runs, maybe some scaled-down embedable Linux. Then it would run little voice/touch/keyboard(the watch might have a keyboard similar to the Casio databank watches)-activated applets. One of the kewlest applets would be a Jabber [] client with transports for the jabber protocol, icq [], aim [], irc [], email, newsfeeds (this could be a jabber transport, or a separate would gather news headlines from sites like slashdot, LinuxToday, and Freshmeat).

    I know this is probably wishful thinking at this point, but it would be cool...

    --Jamin Philip Gray

  • Indeed, the revolution is nearly here, but many people still fail to understand the implications of a powerful convergence technology like Bluetooth [], which will allow automatic synchronization of one's PDA and Mobile phone (we call 'em "Handys" in Central Europe) with the desktop PC.

    Future Mobiles will have GSM (in Europe and enlightened places like Manhattan) as well as Bluetooth for pico-net connections. And Bluetooth also means eliminating cables -- who needs a USB cable when you can run USB protocols over Bluetooth, and connect your keyboard, printer, mouse, PDA, Phone and wearable HUD using wireless?

    With suitable repeaters, this can enable roaming within an organization, and with IEEE 802.11 bridging, can allow for wider roaming for a truly wireless experience.

    The future is coming fast, and it will be a lot of fun!
    -- Paul Gillingwater

  • Well here in Europe most people are now using ear pieces for making/receiving calls on their mobiles - driven by the recent stories of potential radiation health risks from emmissions. A by product of this is that the mobile is not up to your ear when you make/receive calls and you can use the address book etc while a call is in progress. Early next year the first bluetooth based ear pieces and other peripherals will appear and then even the wire to the ear piece disappears - we've tested a prototype ear bluetooth based ear piece...very cool indeed! I know US friends are almost always amazed at the number of mobiles that are in use here in the UK - we're at 32% now with 50% predicted by the end of 2000. This level of penetration has been driven by a Europe wide digital mobile standard - GSM and the fact that here the 'calling party' pays. The pace of development in Europe is truly is the one area where Europe is way ahead of the US. If you have a WAP 1.1 compliant mobile take a look at which is a WAP application we are developing that allows you to get UK train times on your mobile. Cheers Andrew
  • I think the decision of whether or not you want one box or two is mostly dependent on whether or not you always carry both. I do, and for that reason I would love a Qualcomm pdQ, but since (a) Sprint doesn't have them yet, and (b) they cost a LOT, especially for last generation Palm technology, I decided for now on a Qualcomm Thin Phone as an adjunct to the trusty Palm Pro. The biggest downside to this approach is that you really can't carry both in your jeans pockets. (The rectangle worn on the left front pocket of my jeans is the geek equivalent of a Copenhagen ring on the back pocket of a kicker's jeans...)

    Bluetooth will solve the two-box problem just after improved microelectronics make it irrelevant (at least in this context) by shrinking phone and PDA components to the curent size of a Palm V.

    Why doesn't anyone build a CDMA phone (no cancer for me, please - GSM is, of course, a US plot to destroy Europeans) that will just let me snap in a Palm device? (Or maybe a CDMA phone plug-in for the Handsring Visor?)

    For Sprint users: This phone has a built-in web browser, which isn't supposed to work yet, but does, at least here in Austin.

    ***The thing that strikes me most about using a phone-based text web browser is what an incredibly bad job the (WAP/HDML) folks have done at reinventing gopher!***

    What we have here is a proprietary, hacked-up (in the uncomplimentary sense) web markup language that is *less* optimized for text browsing that the simplest gopher client. What were these people thinking? I won't be browsing with it much, that's for sure, but the CDMA IP connection may come in quite handy with the PalmPilot when I can buy the data cable for the ThinPhone (due soon.)
  • One of the inhibitors of widespread use of new wireless phones in America is the fact that everyone is so dispersed. What is the coverage of a cell phone base station? Around 10 miles under optimal conditions? Let's say France is a 200 mile square (numbers simplified to protect the mind of the author). It would only take 400 or so base stations to cover everyone in the country (I worked on a wireless product once. The hardest part in expanding service is getting permits for new base stations. Not only do people consider them 'ugly' and fight against having them around, but the FCC is very careful about not interfering with other types of communications).

    Now, consider America. 400 stations might cover my home state of North Carolina. But I want it to work everywhere I go. Bell South's digital service worked between Charlotte, Greensboro, and Raleigh. But what happens when I visit my brother in Ashboro, or I take a trip to the beach. The phone becomes useless.

    For those people who complain that America has a hodgepodge of standards, remember that the coverage area of Bell South approximates that of most of Europe. If the whole country had to use one technology at the same time, I doubt that we would ever advance. (Is the best technology used for the heavily populated northeast the same for the barely inhabitted southwest?)

    As for the question of whether you reall want to have your PDA and phone integrated: eyeglass displays with an earphone at the end of they eyeglass' arm, and a drop-down mic. The PDA itself would resemble one of those mouse replacement touchpads -- a couple of buttons and a little pad. The wire could run under clothing with the PDA resting in a pocket until needed. It's not all that hard to imagine graceful integration.

  • When people talk about being able to get Web access on their home landline phones and on the supersmall cellphone screens I cringe. I think what people need to realize is that when I want to get the weather, I do not want everything has to offer. I do not want ads (duh) or massive graphics, or links to movies or something like that. I want the weather info on a page that I can download quickly and look at easily. I want a Slashdot headlines and links to stories, not all the other stuff (however nice it may be :)). For "the web" to be truly useful on handheld devices we need to get information pages, not webpages as we know them now.
  • The "proprietary, hacked-up protocols" in the Wireless Application Protocol suite are indeed disturbingly incompatible with Internet practice. But, they're here for the near-term, so it's best to know what the platform really provides. I've written an article and a detailed report on the "W* Effect" -- WAP Forum's (misguided) tendency to reinvent every IP standard with a W slapped in front.
  • FYI, France's area is 545,630, which translates roughly into a 500x500 mile-square -- your little simplification was off by a factor of 5. Europe's land area is approximately 10,525,000, which is larger than the U.S.'s 9,158,960 and yes, that figure includes Alaska. Scandinavia still manages to have the highest use rates in the world and excellent coverage despite very low population densities in the north.


  • Sporty [] wrote: Am I the only one that also thinks that the population density of some areas make it quite difficult to do this?

    For mobile services it is surface-travellers, not population that counts. After all, if you're talking about static population, have a static landline.

    How many people actually permanently live IN Disneyworld? Not many, I suppose. But there are thousands of visitors, so these kind of areas are prime locations for mobile 'phone transmitters.

    What helps in Europe is that pretty much everywhere is "on the way" to somewhere else vaguely important. For instance, I live in the rural Cotswolds, UK [] (you'll be familiar with it if you've ever watched an Agatha Christie movie), which has a low population but is between Birmingham, Bristol and London. Thus even though the local population is low, we have people travelling- by car and train- through our area a lot. And that's why I can get a good signal strength at home despite it being well and truly out in the sticks as my wife points out. []

    I'm not sure this model would work in the Americas where you're in an "east coast" and "west coast" situation with two large metropolitan areas with very little inbetween- and the "inbetween" is a vast area of thousands of kilometres usually traversed by aeroplane, not car/train.

    Of course, all this would be solved by satellite 'phones. But there is no incentive for people to use these schemes in Europe and Asia when GSM works just fine, thanks. And that's not forgetting the huge start-up costs of satellites compared to groundwave TXs.


  • by uradu ( 10768 ) on Tuesday September 28, 1999 @06:09AM (#1653973)
    I read an interesting article a couple of years ago, comparing US and European cell service. Basically, in the '80s the US had excellent analog cell service (for the time), while Europe completely bungled that one--remember how much analog cell phones and service used to be in 1990 or so in say Germany? So Europe pretty much decided to kill that bitch and go digital all the way; they didn't have much to loose, not too much analog infrastructure.

    The US on the other hand had very extensive analog infrastructure, and the cell phone companies had a lot of investment that hadn't paid for itself yet. Therefore they had little incentive to switch to digital just yet. Only now they're finally switching over, simply because digital is much cheaper in the long run--the per-cell user densities are orders of magnitude higher, depending on technology. Add to that the NIH (Not Invented Here) factor, meaning that US companies couldn't simply take GSM without screwing with it, which led to several different digital technolgies in the US. True, European GSM wasn't the best technology--particularly the 900 MHz fiasco--but it was an established standard and off-the-shelf. Hence spotty coverage, slow deployment, etc...
  • GSM was designed from the outset to support data services, such as SMS, which are widely available in the Rest of the World, but pretty much unknown in N.A. where few cellphones use GSM.

    Good to know we're ahead of the game in some respects. I didn't realise that SMS wasn't used over in NA, in Europe it's the norm, I get SMS messages on my mobile phone almost as often as I get voice calls.

    On a recent trip to Switzerland, we geeked over the public phone boxes, all of which are equipped with little keyboards & 8-line mono displays from which you can send SMS messages, faxes & email, at 50 Swiss centimes for a 128 character message.

    Of course, you probably couldn't install this equipment in any country other than Switzerland, due to vandalism...



  • len wrote:

    To slightly contradict what I wrote earlier, I wonder if this would be because the United States was ahead of Europe, so European carriers ended up adopting a later, more advanced digital cellphone protocol.

    This is an interesting point.

    People have often pointed to the post-WWII development of Japan (and just as spectacularly, West Germany's Wirtschaftswunder -- economic miracle -- of the 50's) as being in part the result of the *destruction* of their infrastructure, and resultant rebuilding. "From scratch" may be an exaggeration, but it approaches truth.

    In a sense, because the Allies (esp. North America, where no combat took place, AFAIK) *won* the war, and had in the end less to rebuild, America et al remained more fragmented / 'inertial' in their various standards (goes this theory) as well as in other aspects.

    I think this theory has a lot of truth, but at the same time, the conclusions to be drawn from it are not clear. A lot of people are in favor of government imposed standards, the more the merrier, and there certainly are tons of such standards to choose from;)

    However: I think the government ought to be responsible for as little as possible, and in the case of all sorts of standards should follow this basic rule. I'm happy to let the French (or the international consortium whose name I forget) define the metric units, and let the US government define US measures in either explicit or implicit reference to these -- and that's already been done. Interesting book by John Lord called (I think) "Sizes - how big or small things really are." Beyond that, let the market decide.

    What role officialdom should play in measures and standards is an interesting topic; it's one of the few places I see a positive (but minimal) role for government as an arbiter and archivist.

    Asking / expecting government to come up with optimal engineering solutions though is a very bad idea, and the convenience of standardization is not worth accepting imposed standards over experimentation and freedom to innovate. (Sorry if tht makes me sound like a Microsoft employee -- I'm not! -- but I hope it also makes me sound like a Free software advocate, which I am.)

    Just thoughts,


  • Whoops, I always stick the 'd' in AvantGo. (However, does in fact work fine, although it is a redirect to


  • I suspect your going in the wrong direction. IIRC the GSM standard pre-dates the TDMA and CDMA.

    The ETU (European Telecoms Union) adopted the GSM standard that a collection of manufacturers, interested parties, etc had put together. A bit like MPEG. I think the European companies have a more diverse market, so appreciate the value of standards. Especially if
    it leads to cheap standardised hardware that
    everyone can use.

    I think the TDMA and CDMA were developed in the USA after GSM. Possibly prompted by a 'not invented here' attitude. AFAIK CDMA and TDMA are technically superior to GSM, but GSM has the advantage in that more networks use it. Allowing one handset to be used in more places, and cheaper hardware through mass production.

    But I could be wrong.
  • I've got my Nokia Communicator 9110 [] (Mobile +PDA), all the functionality of the above, plus it's an AMD 486 with 4Mb of NVRAM, with limited handsfree. Running GeOS (?), complete with mail, web browser (no images), a very basic text editor, calendar, and most importantly telnet (so any ap from a UNIX box). You can even create new programmes for it, (hmmm must program games...).

    I use it so that I can do my job and support Networks with it. It's a damn sight lighter than the previous solution (Mobile + Laptop). It fits on my belt, and although it's heavy, it's not much heavier than my old phone!
  • I.e., sometimes a desktop machine with a big screen is the right answer, and sometimes a handheld device is the right answer?

    Hmm. I seem to remember seeing a Slashdot thread referring to an article [] in which some expat Finn said, among other things

    I believe in purpose-built devices. If you look, for instance, at the Nokia 9000 [Communicator], it is a cute thing, which I like, but it is not a good mobile phone and it is not a good PDA.

    Perhaps he had a point? He didn't address "desktop vs. mobile", but I think that's another case where it's not necessarily the case that "convergence" is an unalloyed good - you don't necessarily want a single box that Does It All (I've read Slashdot with a Nokia 9000 whilst riding in a car - it works, but I'd rather read it on a nice big screen; I might, however, want to read some stuff "on the move", or order pizza, or whatever, on a mobile phone, or a Palm, or...).

    See also the "IBM Unveiling New Transcoder Technology" Slashdot article []; some folks have commented that they don't necessarily want Full Frontal Slashdot on their mobile phone or PDA.

  • I belive that they are already trying to do that! I read an article a while ago (sorry print, not web), that they are trying to slim CE down (haha), so that they can compete with Symbian, for the, soon to be huge, wireless data market.
  • Basically, in the '80s the US had excellent analog cell service (for the time), while Europe completely bungled that one--remember how much analog cell phones and service used to be in 1990 or so in say Germany?

    Well I don't know much about the cell phone situation in Germany, but the nordic countries had extensive analog cell phone network (NMT) in the beginning of nineties. With the huge success of GSM phones the old analog network is being phased away and the frequencies allocated to digital phones.

    It seems that the US really is a bit lagging behind in going mobile, at least compared to - for example - Finland, where everybody and their dog has a GSM phone. And the large amount of cellular users (more than users of the POTS, if I recall) is not caused by the poor quality of the normal telephone system, we've had completely digital telephone network backbones here for years...

  • > Start boning up on WAP development, kids...

    Agreed. WAP will quickly take off once the handset vendors manage to get suitable handsets into the shops in large enough numbers.

    I expect to see many popular WWW sites providing content in both HTML and WML format (heck scripted sites like Slashdot could easily do this).


    [My day job is installing/maintaining our company's WAP gateway product in mobile telcos worldwide]
  • I donno about everybody else, but Lynx on a Palm Pilot would suit me fine .. after all, everybody knows lynx is the fastest, most efficient browser -- right? :)
  • I meant that as a joke--observe the "he, he". However, I have a VERY hard time believing the almost 100% coverage in Sweden. It's a big country by European standards, with a population of less than 10M. Most of them are concentrated in several large cities. The population density in the backwoods approaches a total vacuum. On the other hand, Germany has a pop. density not unlike a can of sardines, yet they still don't boast 100% coverage. So I do have a hard time believing the Sweden figures. Keep in mind here, we're talking COVERAGE, not market penetration. Yes, more Swedes might use cell phones, but that doesn't imply wider coverage. Why would they put a tower up somewhere in Lapland, so that Olaf can talk to his sweetiepie on the phone while ice fishing on the john?
  • Yes I have, but I don't have to. Since 80% or more of the population lives in a few urban hives, it doesn't matter how bloody big the country is. It makes no economic sense to transform Lapland into a veritable porcupine of towers.

    The GSM 900 MHz fiasco is this: it happens to be a very nasty frequency to be using around people with--say--pacemakers. Which is why few hospitals in Europe permit their use indoors--certainly true in Germany. Natch to all those snobbish StarTac-carrying doctors. 1800+ MHz doesn't seem to have this problem, hence the move away from 900 MHz, regardless of your impressions. There's also the matter of bandwith--the higher the frequency, the more simultaneous conversations, the more users per cell, the more money for Mr. cell phone service provider.

    Well, "fiasco" might have been a strong word. Overall, Europe still did the right thing, but it would have been handy to forego the 900 MHz step. The new UMTS standard works above 2 GHz, so that's the way it's going.
  • ... where we have Microsoft and Intel? ;) [Al Gore]
  • One of the reasons why cell phones are more common here is that the quality of the land line phone service is sometimes absolutely awful. I personally live in the Czech Republic, and SPT Telecom, the PTT here, is crap. It costs less to own a mobile than a land line, the quality is better, and international calls are cheaper than calling a mobile from a land line now (thanks to voice over IP).

  • Well-formedness in HTML, in addition to adherence to the HTML 4.0 Strict specification (or HTML 2.0, for that matter), would make handheld browsing a reality. Of course it doesn't mean that it would be comfortable to read paragraphs worth on a 4x10 display, or whatever they are right now (-: (Keep in mind that just being standards-based doesn't mean your pages won't bomb out on handheld devices, speech synthesizers, or whatever; you have to keep the spirit in mind too.)

    Those "visionaries" who thought that the Web would only be useful on a computer screen, and therefore opted to abuse HTML as much as possible, are to blame for the fact that you literally can't pull up anything on a device smaller than a checkbook.

    I encourage everyone to consider the benefits of well-formedness and adherence to standards when they structure their HTML. The current CSS specs, along with nice browsers like Mozilla [], can provide you with ways to still look pretty. If I hadn't accidentally deleted my web site [] I could demonstrate :-)

  • Perhaps the reason that Europe is ahead of North America in this is because many of these devices (e.g. the ones mentioned in the MSNBC article) work on GSM digital networks. GSM was designed from the outset to support data services, such as SMS, which are widely available in the Rest of the World, but pretty much unknown in N.A. where few cellphones use GSM.

    Funny how certain consumer technologies are widely adopted in Europe before the USA, where the consumer is (supposedly) king. GSM, smart cards, teletext (remember that?), fast trains. But these technologies all require a widespread and uniform infrastructure, which the American fragmented ("comptetitive") markets and weaker government are not always able to provide.

    No big social message here, just an observation.

    BTW, I live in Canada, which more resembles the USA in this context. We have only one GSM cellphone company.

  • by dantes ( 89932 ) on Tuesday September 28, 1999 @04:42AM (#1653996)
    I still like my big monitor and keyboard, though. The WWW on a palm-sized screen seems to lose some of its flavor.

    Very true, but I wouldn't mind being able to download the latest slashdot headlines and read them on the train on my way into work, as opposed to reading them for the first 45 minutes I am at work. I can live without the icons.
  • I work for a mid-sized regional communications company that offers DSL, cable modem Phone, CATV, CLEC, and PCS services throughet VA and WV. We just started testing and selling the Qualcomm pdQ and althugh its a little bulky, it runs on the Palm III platform with some extras attached. the one I tested did not have a browser of any kind yet but it would let you dial into your personal PC presuming you left your modem on answer (nice security) I did not have the chance to see what type of protocols it used to transfer data that way. It also had a standard POP3/SMTP email program, figures from the makers of Eudora. Still, it worked nicely but I would rather carry a smaller phone and a seperate PDA given the Retail Price of this monster, 800-1000 US Dollars, for basically a Palm III I can get a palm V for just over $400 now, why would I want a palm iii? Still its a good unit and has better sound/recption quality than any other Qualcomm handheld CDMA phone I have used, at least on our PCS network. I have always preferred Motorola's handhelds for more stability and less dropped calls. Plus the Motorola StarTac 925's have a GREAT hidden test facility that shows you receive signal strength in real time as well as the last and current PN (antenna on a cel site) your phone was communicating with. It woud even do 8k and 13k loopback tests and report not only YOUR receive signal strenght but how well the tower was recieving your signal. Nifty little phone :)

    Anyway, as disorganized as I am and as little time as i spend at my desk a PDA is a great tool for scheduling and contacts. Merging it with a phone is a good idea for those who want to have less gadgets to break/lose/replace but what hapens when you do lose it or break it? You lose EVERYTHING your schedule, all the phone numbers you cant remember like your wife's, and you can't make a call without a uater (or now a quarter and a dime) and that big account that wanted to call you at the last minute and do lunch with you thinks your ignoring them!
  • One interesting thing to note is that the biggest players in the cellphone market (Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola and Panasonic) are all pushing Symbian []'s EPOC32 as an operating system for PDAs and "smart" cellphones. These companies are also quite hefty players in the communications infrastructure market in Europe, and GSM is much more widespread here than in the USA (it's practically universal). I'd say these organisations are well set to deliver a serious integrated mobile-comms system, at least in Europe, in the near future.
  • Yes, you can really browse the web on a palm sized say 160x160 pixel screen. You get little information on such a screen if you boost up your pages with huge graphics... but at the same time, many people use lynx to browse the web. Lynx at 80x25 is not that much more screen space than a palm pilot has....

    Just think of the advantages: Anywhere you are, you can download news, the movie schedule, theatre reviews, or slashdot articles. It's the ultimate way of taking information with you - store it on a huge server at home and access whatever bits you happen to need with your WAP-enabled cellular. And the best is, you can have dynamic content. You can take along a movie schedule on your PalmPilot anyway - but you have to sync it all the time. And what happens when you are in a different city? Pay long distance calls once you find a place to hook up your modem, or use a cellular with modem anyway.

    I say it rocks. It's the way of the future. Forget about the "web losing its flavor" - this is bringing the web back to its roots, back to its flavor - it was never intended as a multimedia layout engine in the first place.
  • Personally, I love my cell phone. I love to be in contact with the people around me constantly. Letting a certain sig-o know I'm coming home, etc.. However, it's interesting to think about how our lives have changed with the increase in connectivity. I know most of you don't really tune into Katz's work, but there is something to be said for not being able to reach someone (or be able to be reached) from time to time.

    As much as I'm a wired person, I sometimes wonder if I'd rather be spending my life as a monk with nothing to my name but a thick robe and a stone slab to nap on. Sounds spartan? It sure is. But think about all the looking around and exploring nature-type-stuff you'd get to enjoy.
  • Oh, here is a URL for the PDQ.... http://www.qualco,1352,,00.html []

    Left that out of my previous post
  • by cdmoyer ( 86798 ) on Tuesday September 28, 1999 @04:46AM (#1654002) Homepage Journal
    One thing not mentioned in the articles is Qaulcomm's pdQ, check it out here []. It is basically a digital cellular phone that is built around/ is integrated with a Pilot. You can even click on phone numbers in the pilot's address book to have it dial. I looks pretty slick.
  • Why do I want a device that combines a Cell phone and a PDA? I don't want to have to carry both my organizer and my Cell phone around. I don't want to surf the web or play games on it. It would just make life a little easier if I had one thing that had phone #'s, addy's, appointments, take notes, make calls. Checking e-mail would be kind of nice, but I don't really want a hand-held laptop. I want it to perform just some basic functions and to perform them very well. And also be able to interface to a PC or laptop. One cool feature would be a PointCast type application that could fetch info that you've set it up to get. Kind of like the sports scores and stock prices you can get on some pagers.

    Heck, I'm pretty ecstatic my digital phone has a phone # rolladex and caller ID. I would much rather have a laptop for mobile computing simply because of the larger/better screen and keyboard. Once again I want a PDA/Cell phone that doesn't try to be a PC. It should strive to be a convenient tool and not try to do everything.


  • by lonely ( 32990 ) on Tuesday September 28, 1999 @04:47AM (#1654004)

    I have to save the people who want these item to become integrated need to step back and let the usability people in.

    I agree that my phone and PDA should talk so that they can syn address books. They should connect using some wire/wireless protocol for connection to the net. (Preferably not optical methods, too much hassel on the train)

    I too would like my PalmIII to talk to my GSM phone..... but would I want them in one box?

    No, have you ever tried to write on something that is next to your ear? Or even type a number on your phone's scratch pad that somebody is dictating to you? Or tried to search AvantGo on your Palm to find out the cinema times for the person on your mobile?

    Better to have two units.

    Also when you forget one, the other still has your numbers on it.

    Sorry rant over. :)
  • Yup... it seems to be the cost structure in the Europe that's driven the mobile revolution. Traditionally domestic carriers have been monopolies that have only recently (10 years or so) been privatised. So in UK, for instance, we have the MASSIVE British Telecom who, without any *real* competition have kept call charges high. Coupled with the mobile pricing model we have here (you don't pay to receive a call) means that mobile phones are not only more convenient but very competitive compared to land lines. Orange (a mobile network over here) are about to release a wireless PDA @ 28.8k. It looks pretty funky.. you keep your big 'ole keyboard.. I'm getting one of these !! Pic [] The full story is here []
  • That's what I do with my Palm III and AdvantGo (

    In addition, AdvantGo and ProxyWeb ( sell content munching servers to reformat web pages to a more Palm friendly format and put it into the MAL format that Palm's use for web 'clipping' services, but I haven't had a chance to find out much about that.


  • That's eastern Europe, which has had its infrastructure gradually degraded by over 40 years of so-called communism. You can't compare that at all with Western Europe. I live in Germany, and the quality of the land lines is excellent.

    People buy cellulars for mostly one issue: Mobility. That's it. No other reasons needed. Oh, yeah, so many of the youngsters buy them to show off and because they think it'll make them look cool, but they're pretty clueless anyway.
  • Is the prevalence of wireless in Europe a reaction to the fact that most of the telcos are state-run monopolies? Is wireless deregulated, or do the telcos run that, too? I would be interested in seeing a price comparision of wireless vs. landline in Europe.

    Note: This is NOT a troll to get things into a Europe vs. US flamewar...I am really curious as to why things like GSM are taking off everywhere but here.
  • My dream of portability is a notebook sized screen...and NOTHING else. kinda like the star trek (ng) ones. A color screen that has a pen interface w/ a WLAN connection at...oh...t1 speeds. =p *drool*

    this pda/cell convergence just doesn't cut it. for one thing those tiny screens can't be good for anything but address books and appointments schedules, if even that. and cell phone bandwidth?!? ugh. that's a bit too slow. =p

    i think the people that predict the convergence of pda and cell are just thinking of all the money they're gonna get and not about how feasible it really is.

    me, i'm gonna wait for my screen. *grin*

  • OK, fair enough - Eastern Europe is more accurate.

  • Getting it done in the North by high technology. That is what happens when you are surrounded by lots of whitespace. The Bank of Montreal offers access for palm jockeys (not lefty and righty!) at .
  • Is the prevalence of wireless in Europe a reaction to the fact that most of the telcos are state-run monopolies?

    This used to be true, however there is a (varying) degree of regulation in most of Western Europe.

  • I can't belive that nobody has mentioned the nokia 9000 or 9110, the 9110 is a PDA and cell phone combined into a slightly bigger than usual cell phone. But I can check my emails in the Pub, send and recieve faxes from the middle of nowhere, use it as a wireless VT100 terminal for my Linux Box, surf the web, telnet, ftp... etc... sure it's not got the fastest connection but it gives you true procket size mobile computing. I can check my email as i'm walking down the street.
  • There are other good reasons, too. For example some people, like students, might move many times, or switch cities or whatever. With a cell phone, you don't have to change your phone number or pay any fees to the operator. And school kids (12-18 years) just love to send text messages to each other in class.

    We had an analogic cell phone system in Finland ages ago, the first wave, ARP came in 1977. It was manually switched meaning you "dialed" and someone on the other end asked you where you want to connect. The 80's were dominated by the more advanced, automatic NMT that is still alive and kicking, especially in the wilderness. They're shutting it down now, though, since GSM900/1800 coverage is nowadays pretty good and NMT use has decreased so much.

    When the hand-held sized cell phones appeared in the 90's, the pager devices very quickly disappeared, which was right.
  • I was amazed at the cellular service in iceland. Not only have they 2 operators in a 220k people country, but the connection is really good even in the middle of nowhere--take a 100-person village, and walk 5 kilometers into the wilderness, and you still have a clear, good connection. Wow.
  • I know most of you don't really tune into Katz's work, but there is something to be said for not being able to reach someone (or be able to be reached) from time to time.

    You do realize there's an off button on most cell phones?

  • Very true! There are many upcoming technologies that will make them even better. Epoc has a good foundation to make big impact on the PDA market, and Bluetooth will make handheld devices usuable for real. WAP will enable mobile browsing and make surfing easier. Here in Sweden the hottest companies are the ones that develop WAP && e-commerce solutions, and solutions for mpbile internet banking for example.

    Compine these technologies with Jini and you get a grasp of the furure.
  • How many people actually permanently live IN Disneyworld? Not many, I suppose. But there are thousands of visitors, so these kind of areas are prime locations for mobile 'phone transmitters.

    This is nice and good and all, but the problem isn't always so static. NYC is one of the biggest cities of the world. At times, though rare, we can't get through on our cells and normal phones due to full switchboards. So you see, the problem is dynamic due to the slowly growing population and small ratio for person per wireless service.

  • No you won, not with Bluetooth at least. Bluetooth-enabled devices will sync with your desktop pc automatically just by getting close to it. You don't have to think about syncing anymore.
  • Yeah... I went to a local cell phone store just to check out the Nokia Communicator 9000i. Very, Very impressive. 'vi' worked flawlessly as well as 'make menuconfig'. The 9600 Baud is really the limiting factor as to why I don't get one. 38.4 is supposed to be demo'ed at TeleCom '99 in October. Of course that's over in Europe and the US lags behind in the GSM markets :(. Also, what service provider does everyone use for GSM Data? Powertel seems to have the best plans (free roaming, free long distance, actual data plans!) and Pacbell is what I use, but data hardly even seems to exist with them. Don't even get me started on the crazy idea to drive to Alabama just to pick up a Nokia 9000i and a good data rate plan :). The free roaming and long distance makes it tempting....
  • Well, the Telia web site isn't terribly useful, since my grasp of Swedish is tenuous at best--basically anything that is close to German or English words. Heh, some sentences can sound like German dialect almost ("Läs mer" for I guess Read More).

    Anyway, went to and they have links to most global providers. According to them, Telia's coverage is as follows: Looks like maybe 80%, but still, I'm impressed. And no, I never said such coverage would be silly, just economically unlikely. But if they see a market, hey, more power to them. Just to prove my point that coverage != market penetration, here's a map for D2 coverage in Germany: Basically only my aunt's outhouse in Baden Wuerttemberg isn't covered, and they're working on that. Still, probably more Swedes use cell phones.

    Here in the US, GTE Wireless I guess doesn't even see a market outside Chattanooga. My digital (and analog, for that matter) coverage stops halfway on the way home, which is in an outer "suburb". Far from the Middle Of Nowhere(TM), but obviously not important enough. Heck, they don't even provide SMS or paging, even though the phones they sell certainly are equipped to. So Much for the US being market driven.
  • You can do that now with the Palm VII. There's a nice little Slashdot Palm Query App that downloads the headlines.
  • I am interested in mobility and little "info appliances" for use in safety and security networks in schools and school systems.

    My concept is to have a data collection and reporting network for safety and security information that relies on the practitioner who works with students rather than overworked and ill-trained secretaries and clerks. I can go to Kroger's; select produce; punch in codes on a scale and weigh it myself; have a label and bar code printed; stick it on the produce; take it to the check out counter; where it is scanned and the price added to my other purchases; I pay by plastic card; and I am out.

    Can we have a network just as easy for collecting and reporting safety and security information? This would be a network that relies on inputs from the practitioners who work with students. They may be teachers, counselors, assistant principals whose responsibilities include discipline, etc. Digital technology could be used to capture and transmit student ids, infraction codes, incident locations, and other codified data. Open-ended fields for descriptions and explanations could be entered through hand writing recognition or voice recognition engines.

    The network would provide reports and queries from the same practitioners as well as users in central office rather than having to go through data processing. The safety and security information can be linked to the school system's student data base and data processing, however, and their reporting would not be diminished.

    There's a bunch of thoughts & ideas on this using the term, "nomadic computeing. See - The modest homepage of Leonard Kleinrock, the "Father of the Internet." He has a number of downloadable papers on nomadic networking. Get the one, "Vision, Issues, and Architecture for Nomadic Computing." December 1995. In IEEE Personal Communications

    and obile_Informatics.html -- By Bo Dahlbom and Fredrik Ljungberg,Viktoria Institute ( and Department of Informatics, Göteborg university, Sweden. "The use of information technology (IT) is now expanding into all dimensions of society. As a consequence, informatics with its general focus on IT use will develop into many different sub-disciplines. Here we introduce one such discipline, mobile informatics, exploring services and concepts of mobile IT use. We outline the foundations of mobile informatics and give examples from ongoing research projects at the Viktoria Institute."

    Then there is a piece on the "intelligence city": -- The Intelligent City And Emergency Management In The 21st Century. "The emergence of the intelligent city in the 21st century will radically transform emergency management as we know it today. Computing and telecommunications technologies, once separate and well-defined, will merge and their distinctiveness will blur. Mobile wireless and Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) will serve as the telecommunications backbone over which municipal management information systems will synchronize and orchestrate the various functions of government agencies and departments."

  • Am I the only one that also thinks that the population density of some areas make it quite difficult to do this? Think of it. Chilicothe, IL, someone is going to hate me for mispelling that, will probably never use more than a couple of T1's collectively and may never have the revenue to have more than 1 ISP in the town if possible.

    In NYC, it's kinda tough. PCS and digital phones made things wonderful (sorta) by expanding the number of connections per frequency. In Europe and the likes, the population doesn't get as much as say, brooklyn with 2.3 million people all on top of each other. (ORGY!)


  • You should use a handsfree type adaptor. It'd mean you have both hands free, and you're not irradiating your head with RF. Then, if you're just chatting you keep your pda-phone on your belt, but if you need it you unclip it and start typing/scribbling etc
  • That'd be why the up and coming Orange PDA and cellphone is also a hands-free video phone.

    This is along the lines of the groovy communicator thingies in Earth Final conflict, Camera Top Left, WinCE (I know but hey - I want to be one of the first people in the world with a mobile video phone ;o) PDA with screen and handwriting organisation.

    Internet access will be so easy - no plugging phones in or making sure that your Palm III is in direct line of sight of your Motorola L7089 (Got one of them - nice phone - cant wait to bring it to america to test the 1900 service) - just hit the internet service you want and the phone will connect - and with no analogue to digital conversion it will be a blindingly fast connect.

    I think that PDAs and phones should merge - I will also see about keeping a seperate phone for when I dont want to lug a PDA around - hopefully Orange will give people a second sim linked to the same account.

    The future's Bright - The future's Orange [].

  • I don't think it's a matter of GSM "taking off", but rather the American cellphone companies are locked in to the particular network protocols they selected a few years back, which for most of them is CDMA or TDMA.

    To slightly contradict what I wrote earlier, I wonder if this would be because the United States was ahead of Europe, so European carriers ended up adopting a later, more advanced digital cellphone protocol.

    Anyone know if I'm speculating in the right direction?

  • Wone of the nice things about PCS is that while standard connections are at ~14.4 given the bandwidht restrictions on one voice channel, most phones that carry data (since its all digital) witht the right programming and the right authentication in the network can do whats called a vocoder bypass. This allows you to grab SIGNIFICANTLY more bandwidth. some PCS providers may sell this in the future as they gain more frequency space but for now its mainly used by the big execs and engineers as the more bandwidth any person grabs the less cals that cel site can carry and the smaller its coverage area gets (cel site shrinkage sucks). I have a qualcomm FWT at home (fixed wireless terminal, no handset it generates dialtone for your house fones and woks on pcs) and I also have the software and programming cable for it so if necessary i cna do a vocoder bypas and ists nifty... gotten upto 128k out of it late at nite....

  • Indded, but what do you do with you're hands free stuff when you are not making a phone call?

    You can't bunch it up in your pocket otherwise it gets knots in it.

    I hate having bits of wire hanging off my clothing. (Except maybe the remote for the MD, but that dissapears when people are around) Maybe I will get used to it.... Perhaps it is easier in sunnier climes, (I live in England), where you don't have to keep on puting on layers of clothing. I always find my MD gismo on the wrong layer... or getting tangled.

    But you are right that my head is way to irradiated.
  • Yes, but at least they aren't smoking to look cool. But who knows, instead of lung cancer maybe they will get brain cancer.
  • p.s. we all live on the surface and with a frequency of one antenna per even quarter mile, there's still limits.
  • I agree that the cell phone form factor is only useful for being ... a phone.

    All of these seem to run those nasty "OSes" from Redmond but check out these pretty things from Fujitsu Personal Systems []
  • Actually if you observe their actions, especially in groups, and especially when there's girls around... you'd figure most of them are braindead already, anyway....

    I've actually seen a elementary school kid with a cellular... I am not sure if I should be sad... or happy, as it might be a geek in training.. ;)
  • Is wireless deregulated, or do the telcos run that, too? I would be interested in seeing a price comparision of wireless vs. landline in Europe.

    As far as I can make out, most European countries have at least one wireless network run by the "state" company or an offshoot of it (in actual fact, many of the "state" telcos have now been privatised), and several other networks run by private competitors.

    The relative homogeneity of wireless networks in Europe (almost entirely GSM900 and GSM1800) has a lot to do with State regulation; basically, although the providers are private companies, the authorities in each country (and, probably, the European Union) stipulated in advance that These Shall Be The Standards. It's left us with a market which doesn't seem significantly less competitive than that prevailing in the USA (standards don't discourage innovation or competition, as we should know :), but which is nonetheless highly capable and flexible.

    Regarding call costs of mobile versus land-line; the biggest difference between the European situation and what seems to be the prevailing standard in the USA is that here, it does not cost anything to receive a call (unless you're roaming to another network from your "home" network). Calls are pretty cheap - of the order of EUR0.02 to EUR0.30 per minute, depending on how much you pay in advance.

    A concrete example: my landline (from eircom [] costs approximately EUR18 per month for the "line rental", and local calls cost EUR0.01 per minute off-peak, EUR0.05 per minute during business hours. Non-local calls cost the same off-peak, and EUR0.20 per minute peak. My cellphone (from Eircell []) costs EUR30 per month, which includes 50 minutes of calls to anywhere in the country - subsequent calls cost between EUR0.15 and EUR0.46 per minute, depending on the time.

    Overall, I find that I pay slightly more for my cellphone than for my landline, but I definitely use it a lot more.

  • Yeah, but what does it take to cover the whole Scandinavian population? Five towers? He, he...
  • I don't suppose you've looked at a map of Scandinavia lately, now have you? There may not be much population here, but there sure is a lot of area to cover.

    And what was that bit about the "GSM 900 fiasco"? In Europe, GSM 900 is the dominant standard and the fate of 1800 MHz "cityphones" is still unclear. The US just missed the 900 MHz wave, so now they're scrambling to catch up with 1800...


  • Yes, having a PDA and phone as one unit would be a complete PITA.

    Things will get seriously cool when Bluetooth products start appearing. Bluetooth is a short range (10 meters), cheap, ubiquitous wireless standard that IBM, Intel, Nokia, Ericson et all are all signed up for.

    With a Bluetooth enabled PDA and Cell phone. The PDA will access the net using your phone while it's still in your pocket.
  • I suspect there's a simple reason for why cellular phones were much slower to take off in the US than in Europe. In the US, at least in the bad old days, the cellular phone owner foots the bill for receiving calls, which is absolutely ludicrous. Think about it: if anybody can call you up and make you pay, it's in your own interest to give your number to as few people as possible! This is not exactly the best way to encourage cellphone use. (Incidentally, this is one reason why pagers are still popular in the US, but entirely obsolete in Europe. The other is GSM's SMS messaging.) In Europe, the receiver pays nothing, so everybody distributes their mobile phone numbers freely -- except when roaming in another country, but that's a different story...

    The US's antiquated area code system also made it impossible to create new prefixes exclusively for cellphones, making it difficult if not impossible to distinguish between cellular phones and land line phones. (And, while I'm speculating here, I suspect this is also the reason the receiver pays -- you can't have the caller pay 1c/minute to 914-123-4567 but $1/minute to 914-123-4568!). Whereas here in Finland, all mobile phone numbers start with a special prefix (040, 050, 049) that indicates not only that the phone is mobile, but the network operator as well.


  • Yup, administering a network while drinking a cool beer on the beach is definitely one of the nicest ways I earned money. (Altough I used my laptop with a GSM pccard for that). But in a recent interview I saw here on Dutch television I heard some very interesting things a mobile provider wants to do in the future. Like using your mobile phone as a credit card. For example, you dial a pizza line, the display of your phone presents a menu of all available flavors and sorts of pizza's, you select your pizza and can pay for it too. The amount will be charged on your phone account.
  • I can admit that I have not tried this phone, but will but in on my list of things to buy. :)

    I main problem is that the time that I will want to have wireless connection, (For example standing on the platform waiting for a train), lineing up the two units is not going to happen.

    Wires are much better if you are walking around.

    Also in reply to your point about having a do all PDA... I am quite happy with the relative sparse nature of my PalmIII because it is so reliable. This one reason why I have shied away from the more complex WinCE and Epoc system. The only time I have had to reboot my Palm is when I dropped the thing very hard!

    I will admit though that I have a fairly conservative range of applications:

    Tricorder (Erm)
    GoType... etc.
  • Now M$ is going to have to dominate that market as well. They'll make a modified version of WinCE, call it WinCP(Cell Phone, of course), and not only will you be able to use a little mouse sort of thing to dial, but the buttons with lock up, and it will take 2 minutes to reboot.
  • There is a lot of talk about XML, CSS, SVG, PNG and a bunch of other three letter acronyms taking over for HTML and pushing web technology forward, but I think WAP will be the most widely and quickly implmentable client-side technology. For once, instead of different companies (I'm not naming names) trying to push their individual proprietary technologies and tags, a group of companies has come together to try to push ONE markup langage. This is the primary reason WAP will succeed, because there is an overriding commercial interest by many, many companies to have it work. While MS and AOL squabble about instant messaging, the primarily European WAP Forum is moving ahead with their phone/data standard (granted, these are not the same purpose, but compariable efforts). Start boning up on WAP development, kids...

    Nevertheless, how do people feel about the WAP being pushed by admittedly private companies who retain the copyrights to the WAP standard and could pull the rug out from the rest of us at any moment?

  • Conserning display prefs. I too enjoy a good 21" CRT for my work, but there are some places thats just not practical. I'll tell you, you can't really appriciate the beauty of a palm pilot until you've:
    • Faxed UPS a new delivery address driving 220 Km/h (~140 mph) through Italy
    • Had your girlfriend check, read, and reply to email for you every hour on a 48 hour drive
    • Debugged routing problems at 3 in the morning from your hotel room in Venice
    • Read slashdot while waiting for a connecting flight
    • Restarting buggy servers from the beach, with your feet in the water
    • I could go on forever...
    The point is; you'r right, there is more comfortable ways to do your electronic communication, but it's hard to find anything more convinient.

    (How about adding a ispell to slash?)


  • lonely is right.

    I was talking cell-phones and PDAs with my former housemates, and one of them pointed to the PDq or similar device (basically a palm with a cellphone) as being pretty neat.

    I started to mime how one would use such a device.

    "Hello, honey? Can you tell me the directions to the Fergusons' party tonight?"

    "Uh-huh, uh-huh ... wait a second while I write it down into the PDA."

    (scribble, scribble)

    "Oh, and what's your new cell phone number?"

    "Uh huh. Uh huh. Wait a second while I write it down into the PDA."

    (scribble, scribble)

    "Oh, and ...--"



    Point is, the information that you'd want to *use* from your PDA will be only awkwardly available if you are holding your PDA to your ear (notably lacking in visual senstivity ;) ). And since the grand scheme of integration that PDA / phone makers are heralding would call for the exact opposite - that is, total convenience.

    As I write this message, I realize that there is one possible solution, which is widepread adoption of the in-ear microphone / speakerbud system. That would allow a user to both scribble on the PDA and talk. Of course, it will also speed our descent into a nation of mumbling, detatched zombies, but hey.


  • You don't have to be in Europe to do these things (although the European systems do seem cooler).

    I have a NeoPoint 1000 [] PDA phone that I use with SprintPCS. Kind of Palm Pilot'ish except that you can't use a pen.

    It's rather painful to add information into the PDA with the phone without handwriting support, but the cool thing about it is the voice recognition based dialing! It keeps your eyes on the road while driving.

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