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More applications coming to handhelds

Announcements at a mobile show include speech recognition advancements and a variety of wireless and Internet applications for the devices.

A variety of handheld applications for corporate users are being unveiled this week in San Diego at the DemoMobile '99 trade show.

Major mobile players like Palm Computing, which makes the popular PalmPilot, are announcing new applications that expand the scope of personal digital assistants (PDAs).

The announcements made at this year's DemoMobile 99 conference include speech recognition advancements and a variety of wireless and Internet applications designed to appeal to "enterprise customers who recommend and purchase products for their mobile professional users."

Analysts say the handheld market is set to boil. Market researcher International Data Corporation predicts that by 2002, there will be more than 55 million handheld and notebook-style information appliance devices, many of these used in business.

Among the announcements: Dragon Systems says it has found a way to bring natural speech recognition to handhelds with its Dragon NaturallySpeaking Mobile Organizer, a handheld recorder that stores and transcribes voice commands. The new product, which works with any Windows-based PC, allows users to generate emails and other entries with spoken commands.

"A lot of people are fine with dictation at the desktop, but a lot of people aren't sitting down at a computer and generating information. Still, they need to get information into their PCs," said Paula Crerar, product manger for mobile solutions at Dragon systems explaining why the company has evolved their traditional speech recognition product for the PC to the handheld platform.

The Dragon NaturallySpeaking Mobile Organizer will be available in the second quarter of this year for $299, the company said.

Palm Computing made a series of wireless announcements aimed at its enterprise customers, including news from its partnerships with Sybase and Aether.

Sybase and Palm are teaming up to optimize wireless data synchronization between corporate computers and Palm's upcoming Palm VII wireless device. "Sybase's support of wireless technology is expected to present new ways for companies across industries to reduce communications costs, increase employee productivity and better service their customers," the companies said in a statement. Palm and Sybase will jointly market the new solution, they said.

Palm is working with Aether Technologies, a provider of wireless data integration services, to develop wireless applications for all of the Palm devices, not just the wireless enabled Palm VII, according to an Aether spokesman. Aether's solution will allow all Palm users within an enterprise to access mission critical and Internet-based information, the companies said.

As previously reported, the conference also marked the official debut of Proxinet and its software, which is used to translate Web content for viewing on devices from 3Com and on Windows CE devices.

Proxinet's technology translates Web content on the fly and thus can be used for live Web surfing without having to hook up to a PC. A wireless modem and associated service are needed, in addition to software that can be downloaded for free and installed on the device.

News.com's Jim Davis contributed to this report.