PalmOne has at long last released an SD Wi-Fi card, enabling PDA users to connect to both office WLANs and public hotspots. However, difficulties with implementing wireless Ethernet on PalmOS mean that the US$129 card will only work on the Tungsten T3 and Zire 72 models.
"The engineering effort has been quite complex," says Rick Hartwig, PalmOne's head of European product marketing. He adds that the company worked with SanDisk to develop the driver software -- the PalmOne card is a badged SanDisk unit.
That complexity has caused other SD Wi-Fi suppliers to shy away from Palm. For example, Socket Communications decided not to support Palm devices earlier this year. Martin Croome, its general manager for Europe, says there is undoubtedly a market opportunity, but that the problems and variations between models, and the corresponding customer support workload, make it uneconomic to address.
The PalmOne card is not perfect -- one nuisance is that you have to turn off the built-in Bluetooth before using Wi-Fi, as the two operate on the same frequency band. This problem rarely occurs with devices that have the two built-in, as the radios can then be designed not to interfere with each other.
Wi-Fi is the one area where PalmOne has seriously lagged behind Microsoft-based Pocket PCs. Several companies have WLAN cards for PDAs but until now the only one with Palm support has been SanDisk, whose Wi-Fi SD card works with the Zire 71 as well as with Pocket PCs.