Palm claims a secure handheld future

In his keynote address at Comdex in Las Vegas Wednesday, PalmSource CEO David Nagel argued that many of the obstacles to ubiquitous wirelessly connected handheld devices have been resolved, paving the way for "a new era in computing."

While acknowledging that security and bandwidth issues remain a problem, particularly for IT managers, he said the next release of Palm OS Version 6, code-named Sahara, specifically addresses shortcomings in handheld security.

He also claimed that by year's end, 1.5 billion people "will be passed by high-bandwidth networks." That doesn't mean that they will access these networks, but they will be within reach.

"The next era of computing, without too much hyperbole, can touch every person on the planet," Nagel said. "Perhaps this will be the ultimate in computing."

Among the many devices demonstrated during his talk, the handheld Zodiac from Tapwave got the most enthusiastic response from the audience. Smaller than a paperback book, the entertainment device has Bluetooth networking built in and allows two players of a race-car game to compete. Its sound and graphics wowed the audience, who cheered the demonstration.

Nagel said devices like the Zodiac, which also has standard features such as a calendar and address book, meet the criteria for what "the market wants." He said that includes the ability to handle general-purpose tasks as well as those specifically designed for the device, with best-in-class capabilities such as entertainment, geographical location and messaging.

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