Turn your PDA into a car navigation device, or a hiking companion. Use it to type documents, or browse entire Web pages on its tiny screen. And keep it ticking--even beyond its normal battery life.
Hardware and software to accomplish all of the above--and much more--was on display last week at TECHXNY (PC Expo). Perhaps in keeping with the show's downsized profile, much of the residual buzz went to add-ons, services, and accessories for these small, increasingly ubiquitous handhelds. Some details:
Zframe: For handheld users, wireless Web access usually means either looking at small portions of pages at a time or simply getting bits of information via Web clipping apps. Zframe's new browser for wireless PDAs and some mobile phones actually fits entire pages (or at least portions you'd see on normal PC displays) on tiny handheld screens.
Okay, you can't read much of anything on the miniaturised page, but the legibility sacrifice is only temporary: Tap any place with a stylus and that immediate area is magnified to readable size. If what you've enlarged is a link, you can tap again to follow it.
The system works by processing Web pages through a Zframe Content Server that formats standard pages to preserve their layout on small screens. Zframe hopes to sell these servers to corporations who want employees to access Intranet content, but individuals will be able to use Zframe by signing up for the company's service. But at $US23 a month (after a two-month, $US25 beta test period) -- not including wireless Web access -- it won't be cheap.
TravRoute Pocket CoPilot 2.0: The new version of this $US299 nifty Pocket PC car navigation system has a cute, round GPS module and an easy-to-use interface. Instructions are transmitted by voice so you don't have to risk getting into an accident by looking at a map. Works with Casio, Compaq, and Hewlett-Packard Jornada Pocket PCs.
DeLorme Topo USA 3.0: The latest release of this well known mapping company's topographic software package targets the frequent hiker. New features include automatic trail and road routing for the entire United States and simplified GPS waypoint management. While primarily a desktop mapping product, Topo USA can export its maps to Palms. With or without a GPS module, these maps can be invaluable on hikes and camping trips.
Electric Fuel Instant Power Charger: But what if your PDA starts pooping out while you're on one of those extended camping trips? Electric Fuel, which last year introduced disposable zinc-air battery packs for cellular phones, now has units for PDAs and wireless modems. Just unwrap one of these $US20 units (exposing it to air triggers power production), plug it in, and you're back in business. Chargers are available for most popular Palms, Handspring Visors, and Pocket PCs, as well as a couple of Novatel Minstrel modems.
Matias Half Keyboard: While Targus' Stowaway folding keyboards are great for wordsmiths who want to compose documents on their PDAs, Matias took a different approach: Its Halfkeyboard for Palms and Handspring Visors is literally just that. It looks like the left half of a keyboard slashed down the middle. But when you hold the space-bar down, the keys become their mirror image. Whatever key you now strike is the key it would be if you touch typed with your right hand--thus, the f becomes a j, the g an h, and so on. The keyboard itself is not brand new, but at Expo Matias showed it worn on one arm and the Palm on another, using Velcro strips. If nothing else, it's an unusual approach to keyboarding on a handheld.