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Sproqit readies real-time PC-to-PDA remote access

Even when the connection drops

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Sproqit will next month ship the first major release of code which allows wireless PDAs to access and manipulate PC-based data in real time, the company said today.

The Register first saw Sproqit Personal Edition (SPE) demo'd in April 2003, and the software has taken longer than planned to come to market. But it remains an impressive concept.

SPE comprises a compact client app, Companion, that runs under Palm OS 4 and 5, and various PocketPC system software releases. It essentially translates transmitted draw commands into device OS UI calls, and relays back the user's actions. There's a Windows-based utility, Desktop Agent, that runs on the host PC. The two make a fast, two-way, secure 128-bit SSL connection brokered via Sproqit's own server, and once in communication allow users to manipulate and view files without transferring them to the handheld or third-party servers.

The concept of mobile remote control isn't knew, not is the way the SPE client simply renders a new view of the PC-based data but not that data itself, but SPE is able to operate when bandwidth is lost. Unlike a synchronisation solution, users always have access to the most up-to-date versions of files. Unlike, store-and-forward systems such as RIM's Blackberry, there's no inherent need to rely on third-party servers.

SPE uses Sproqit servers to establish client and PCs credentials before allowing them to connect. Upcoming Workgroup (25 users) and Enterprise releases - due December 2004 and Spring 2005, respectively - will provides corporates with their own connection-brokering code. A carrier-grade version is also in the works.

SPE's real limitation is the range of apps covered. It ships with links to Microsoft Outlook's PIM and email facilities, and a file browser that can look-up directories local to the PC and any network it's connected to. Sproqit CEO Peter Mansour told The Register that support for POP3 email, Lotus Notes and other email apps is coming before the end of the year.

Other apps can be supported through plug-ins into the host PC's utility. Mansour said the plug-in SDK will be released before the end of the year. Even then, only data that is fundamentally text-based can be supported. While "hundreds" of file-types can be viewed, denser, media formats such as JPEG can't. Mansour pledge support for such formats in future releases.

He also promised Companion support for Symbian and Microsoft smart phone platforms by the end of the year.

The SPE software is itself free, but Sproqit will levy a monthly £8/$10 fee for the connection brokering service. Enterprise customers with their own broker servers will only pay for the software. The server code will run on Windows, Linux and other Unix-based server OSes.

In the UK, Sproqit said it had signed local PalmOne distributor Hugh Symons will bundle the SPE software with Treo 600 smart phones. The bundle includes a 14-day trial of the £8-a-month service. ®

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