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3Com unveils wireless-equipped Palm VII

Connect to the Net wherever you are, says 3Com -- but expect to pay extra for the privilege.

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3Com has finally unveiled the next version of the Palm handheld computer, ending months of speculation over what it might come up with. The new machine is not, as anticipated earlier this year, the slimline device codename Razor, but a modified version of the current Palm III offering. The Palm VII -- what ever happened to IV, V and VI? -- provides wireless machine-to-machine communication through a built-in two-way radio. Each Palm VII will also ship with an account on Palm.Net, which will connect the machine to the Internet for the price of a $10 monthly subscription fee. Palm.Net is provided through BellSouth Wireless Data's cellular network, but 3Com said because the underlying technology and protocols are network-independent, it may be expanded to other service providers at a future date. In fact, that network-independence is essential to rolling out the Palm VII beyond the US. To overcome the long-standing problem of displaying complex Web pages on handhelds' small monochrome screens, Palm VII users simply send short database-style queries across the wireless connection. Palm's servers process that query via Web search engines and send back the data in a proprietary form that the Palm VII can easily interpret and display. The Palm VII uses a similar streamlined process, called iMessenger, for handling email. 3Com claims that this approach reduces not only expensive and power-gobbling wireless airtime but the processing overhead at the client end. The company said the device will achieve "weeks of performance" on two AAA batteries. The Palm VII will undergo field trials early next year, with the final rollout scheduled for "later in 1999". It is expected to retail in the US for "less than $800" -- $799.99, in other words. ®

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