CeBIT: Wireless News You Can Use

HANOVER, Germany – CeBIT – Ah! CeBIT. It’s big, it’s loud, and it’s usually raining. Luckily, Unstrung is here to trawl the halls for wireless stories so you don’t have to. Which, lets face it, saves on shoe leather and lost umbrellas and means you won’t get followed around by some guy in a bee suit handing out corporate lollipops.

Here are some of the platters that matter:

Free at Last! Free at Last!: Even in an industry as puffed up with unbelievable claims as the mobile industry is, Samsung is the clear, hands-down winner of the award for the most absurdly risible marketing concept at CeBIT. The massive electronics vendor is promising us – that's each and every one of us – "Digital Freedom." Woo-hoo!

This isn't, as you might think, something you could still find yourself jailed for in Alabama. No, it's, er... freedom through wide-screen TV, or something...

"For me the fundamentals of Digital Freedom are to provide the most exciting digital products that are beautifully designed and amazing to use; to make content and services accessible at all times and in all places; and to offer the most advanced products with the greatest value at affordable prices," gushes Samsung's CEO Dr Daeje Chin. "At Samsung we are committed to providing every customer the freedom from limitations of time and space [!] in accessing whatever services they want. This is true Digital Freedom, and it should be available to everyone regardless of age, culture, or geography!"

And how, you may cry, can I become Master of Space and Time? Just what are the exciting products that will help me throw off the chains of my analog bondage, so long endured? Why, a PDA, a laptop, the aforementioned TV, a printer, and a Xerox machine. Like, duh!

Next stop: the Five Peripherals of the Apocalypse.

Socket and See: Nokia Corp. has transferred its Bluetooth CompactFlash card business to Socket Communications Inc. and recommended that from now on its customers use the wireless connectivity firm’s card in their PDAs and mobile phones. The companies have been working together on Bluetooth applications since late 1999.

Assault a Battery: Speaking of Socket, the company has been selling a low-power 802.11b (WiFi) wireless LAN card for PDAs since last November. Wireless LAN cards have always been a problem for PDAs: The cards tend to suck the charge from a battery-powered device like a high-powered vacuum. The battery-life stats for the CompactFlash card are pretty good anyway, but the folks on the Socket stand have a sneaky tip for getting more juice from their cards. Simply tug the card slightly when not in use so that it disconnects from its coupling, and push it back into place only when you want to wirelessly download files. One Socket staffer said that, using this method, she was able to keep her Compaq iPaq handheld switched on all day, download email ten times via the booth’s wireless LAN, and use just over a quarter of the PDA’s battery life. The Socket low-power WiFi card costs around $180.

Howdy Pardners: Chipmaker Texas Instruments Inc. sure does love a good wireless partnership deal. The company announced at CeBIT that it will provide Ericsson AB with semiconductor technology and reference designs for its third-generation handsets. TI already has announced similar deals with rivals Nokia, Microsoft Corp., and Symbian Ltd. We hope there are no strings attached.

Magpie’s Got Your Number: Reasoning that mobile users have neither the time nor the tiny fingers needed for Web surfing on their mobile phones, Symbian and the Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications joint venture have decided to do it for them. The companies have developed a system called “Magpie” that embeds content into common phone applications “according to context,” allowing service providers to deliver small amounts of targeted information directly into a phone's user interface via applications such as the contacts book or calendar, messaging or voice. This means that carriers could push, say, sports fixtures to a user’s calendar and then follow that up with text messages. The companies say that this will offer carriers and content providers “a new and efficient platform for the delivery of billable content.” That is to say, the companies hope that Magpie will attract carriers and content providers, because it will enable them to charge customers some more shiny, shiny coins for wireless data services. SMS gateway vendor Logica PLC is also supporting the project.

Is My Firewall Showing?: Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. is one of the big cheeses in firewall circles and now they have a virtual private network (VPN) for mobile devices. Check Point says that its VPN-1 SecureClient works with Microsoft Pocket PC devices over wireless LAN and WAN connections.

I-Made It!: As Unstrung recently reported, NTT DoCoMo’s I-mode wireless data service has finally made it to Europe. The first compatible handset, the N21i from NEC Corp. goes on sale this week at €249, which would translate to a U.S. street price of around $220 or so, if I-mode ever breaches America’s perimeter defenses. Mitsubishi Corp. (which sells phones under the Trium brand in Europe) has a European I-mode handset on the show floor as well.

F-Secure iPaqs ‘Em In: Finnish antivirus software company F-Secure Corp. has Pocket PC security wrapped up. The company is bundling its software with Compaq Computer Corp devices, working with Hewlett-Packard Co., and has announced an agreement to “provide data protection” for Fujitsu-Siemens’ (Website still under construxxxxxxxion) new Microsoft-based PocketLoox device.

Later, Microbrowser: Palm Inc. finally has a browser of its very own. The struggling handheld maker has taken a leaf out of Microsoft Corp.’s book and developed a browser that can read HTML, which gives users the ability to peruse pretty much any site on the Web, rather than the limited number of pages that can be read in the WAP format. Of course, Palm Licensee Handspring Inc. has rather beaten Palm to the punch: It is on its second revision of its Blazer browser, which it claims to be the fastest-loading microbrowser in the world.

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung
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