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E-Mail Takes to the Skies

-- by James E. Powell

Internet access isn't just for modems and LAN connections anymore. Some companies are taking the idea of remote e-mail and weather information sky-high.

Sierra Wireless has announced AirCard, a Type II dual PC Card that lets you connect to the Internet using a cellular connection in either cellular digital packet data (CDPD) or circuit switched mode. The card combines a full-functioned 33.6Kbps modem and a cellular modem, taking two Type II slots in your PC. The company expects to require only one slot next year, as some notebooks will include modem functionality as part of the motherboard.

Pocketful of Net

While Microsoft and its partners push Windows CE, the new operating system for hand-held units, AT&T is introducing PocketNet Phone. The $500 device, which resembles a typical cellular phone but also includes a tiny screen, uses CDPD to get information from the Internet and corporate intranets. It's all there: financial news, airline information, e-mail, price lists, order status and delivery schedules; in short, just about any kind of data that can be downloaded from a server.

PocketNet Phone applications are written in an open programming specification called HDML-a derivative of the Web authoring language-which can operate through standard Web servers using a customized browser developed specifically to send and retrieve only text-based data. AT&T claims the applications will be compatible with existing Web apps and will be managed at the server level. The browser client on the phone automatically reflects all application changes and updates without modification.

AT&T says you can even use your PocketNet to get lottery results. Too bad it won't be able to tell you which of several upcoming technologies will be lucky enough to take off-and which ones won't.

Copyright 1997 CMP Media Inc.

(From Windows Magazine, January 1997, page 78.)