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Commentary: PDA-cell phone won't appeal to masses yet

Most people are unlikely to trade in their cell phone and PDA for Handspring's upcoming combo. But it is viable for workers who use wireless phones at their desks instead of wired ones.

By Ken Dulaney, Gartner Analyst

For some time, the industry has anticipated the addition of wireless voice to handheld computers. With the VisorPhone add-on cartridge, Handspring will become the first company to hit the market with this capability.

Most people are unlikely to trade in their cell phone and PDA for Handspring's combo. But it is viable for workers who use wireless phones at their desks instead of wired ones.

See news story:
Handspring offers PDA-cell phone sneak peek

VisorPhone's key feature is a slick Palm operating system application to help people control phone functions and to make use of the data stored in the device while operating the phone.

VisorPhone will not replace Palm VII or Omnisky. The functionality it offers, however, should appeal to people who use their wireless phones for calling and voicemail when at the office. As its key benefit, VisorPhone integrates and makes available all the data that is normally separate from the phone.

This data can be used to simplify many of the more advanced and often difficult-to-use functions of an office phone. Transferring a call, for example, is still a mystery to many office workers. For a deskbound worker, placing callers on hold or transferring calls becomes far simpler than navigating through the cumbersome, tree-structured menus of many cell phones or the mysterious button sequences of desk phones.

For a mobile user, VisorPhone will only make sense as a phone replacement if the person values the advanced interface while outside the office, although it is not truly "mobile." Operating the phone function while driving, for example, would be difficult.

VisorPhone does not offer wireless Web surfing. Support for wireless data will be added later and may require different equipment. The new telephony module operates only in the 1.9-GHz U.S. PCS band, and wireless-data support will likely be implemented only when General Packet Radio Services (GPRS) becomes available or via future Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) modules.

(For related commentary on one way to plan and lay out a network, see Te chRepublic.com--free registration required.)

Entire contents, Copyright © 2000 Gartner Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.