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  1. Rob
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       #1  
    Ok, so Handspring has promised an update to allow 'always-on' network services, but what will this really mean? I think always-on is a huge opportunity, but I'm not sure Handspring is ready to take full advantage of it. Sure, it will support notification of arriving e-mail messages, but what else will it do? Here's what I think:

    1) Incoming e-mail, instant messages, and 'pages' should be handled by a PalmOS4.0-style 'notification manager' (plus it would be cool if this could act as a real pager with a personal 800 number, but I think all the GSM providers only support 'pages' via their voicemail systems)

    2) 'Always-on' should apply not just to incoming e-mail, but to a persistent TCP/IP connection, so you don't have to wait to connect when you launch your browser, ftp client, or telnet client (yes, this means you need flat rate network and ISP pricing, which may not happen in my lifetime!) For one perspective on this, read Red Mercury's rant about 'why wireless blows'.

    3) Handspring needs to follow up with the wireless platform that these 'always-on' devices make possible. What do I mean by this? Take for example a simple application that allows you to suggest a meeting (datebook event) to another Treo user wirelessly. How would this work? Would it be a clunky v-Cal style attachment to e-mail that would require everyone buy some specialized 3rd party e-mail program? Why should this be based on e-mail at all? Why not be integrated into the instant messaging? Or integrated into the OS? The receiver's Treo could automatically check for conflicts in the datebook, then pop up an alarm dialog screen with 'accept' and 'decline' buttons and a small text entry box to reply with a note/explanation. Perhaps if you have lots of these requests, you would also need to integrate these into a notification-manager-type screen that allows you to 'decline all' (or maybe you can apply a filter or reverse-filter so that only certain people, like your secretary, can send you events)... I'm not too sure about the details, but this gives you some idea of what you might be able to build with an always-on wireless PDA platform if it is correctly supported by the device vendor(s). I believe the blackberry provides a simple version of this to send calendar events to other blackberry users. If Handspring does this right (which I don't expect, because I don't see any signs that they have thought about the real potential of this as a wireless platform) they would include the necessary support to encourage developers to build on top of this. For example, how about an app that lets you find the next available meeting time for all 5 members of your staff or when your college buddies can get together for drinks? I admit for this to REALLY work for lots of people, you would need a standard that cuts across multiple vendors and hardware devices (even wired desktop/laptop devices), but even if it was only Handspring then it still makes it possible for corporations to equip their employees with the Treo devices and collaborate wirelessly.

    4) In a similar vein, there should be a seamless way to transfer other records (ToDos, Addresses, Memos) to other Treo users. Should this be by e-mail attachments? Maybe, but at least the built-in e-mail client should support them and make it easy to import the records into their own built-in app databases. (Isn't there already something like this that works during a hotsync? Does Coola let you send records to other Coola users?)

    5) 'Mini network hotsync': just like certain backup programs allow you to specify only certain dbs be backed up, there should be a way to specify that you only want to hotsync the built-in apps over the persistent wireless connection, or maybe just the address book. You should also be able to set it to automatically do a wireless network sync at a predefined time every day.

    6) 'Pushed' content? On the desktop, the 'push' model didn't catch on, but I wonder if there are applications for always-on wireless devices? What if you could specify that certain AvantGo Channels get pushed out to your Treo every time they are updated? Maybe stock quote alerts?

    What do you think? What kind of cool applications can you imagine for an always-on wireless PDA?
  2. #2  
    ALways on does not mean you only have access to the GSM providers web pages. It would mean that you have a "continuous" connection without dialing and ISP. Blazer being the web browser and being charged for the content megabytes you transact. The e-mail part is a bit more squishy, sounds like HS is making a client to load on your desktop that "polls" for new e-mail, they forwards it to your handheld.
  3. #3  
    There are solutions in the GSM world to most of the things suggested. You want the Treo to work like a personal pager? That's what SMS is for.

    OK, some networks really don't have the hang of it - VoiceStream seemed to be particularly cretinous with their SMS when a mate was using it in the US - but some GSM networks do provide a bureau service, where you can call an operator, leave a message, and it's delivered as an SMS. And unlike paging, you get reliable delivery. You'll also find many GSM networks have dialup interfaces for sending SMS too.

    That's completely separate from voicemail. I'm not sure how you've managed to get the impression that "all the GSM providers only support 'pages' via their voicemail systems."

    When I get a voicemail, my phone shows a voicemail icon (and beeps, if it's been told to). When I get an SMS, I get the SMS tone/vibrate, and just read the message. OK, some third rate networks send an SMS to say you have voicemail, but that's just sloppiness on their part.

    The always-on connection is, as others have commented, a proper TCP/IP link - not just something for email, though that's what it's being used for mostly.

    Push messages are supported by a number of GSM networks, either using SMS or the GPRS connection. As a trivial example, turn on your GSM phone when you arrive in Amsterdam Schipol airport, and the KPN network will send you a welcome message telling you a local number to dial for your voicemail, what to dial for directory assistance, the number to ring for hotel reservations and wishing you a pleasant stay in the Netherlands. I've had similar in Eire too.

    As for collaborative scheduling, I think Nokia probably has some applications in that area. Even without, I daresay you could use the web connection via Blazer to a time-planning system. And since you should be able to network-hotsync via GPRS, I don't see any particular problem with managing tasks like that. The technology is all there already.

    Hell, if you really wanted to, you could do something like that right now with VisorPhone ; connect to your PC over GSM, use VNC to see what people have sent you in Outlook, accept or reject appointments and then network sync.

    Yes, it could be more seamless, but I suspect if you hunt around, you'll find there are already tools to do most of what you want.

    Nigel.

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