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By Chris De Herrera 
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My Perspective:
Wireless Pocket PCs in the Enterprise
(As Published in Enterprise Solutions for Windows Powered Mobile Devices)
By Chris De Herrera, Copyright 2000      Chris De Herrera

 Version 1.00  Revised 8/10/2000

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On April 19th, Microsoft announced their latest Windows CE PC Companion called the Windows Powered Pocket PC. While the Pocket PC is innovative in a number of ways, corporate users will really appreciate the work that the hardware manufacturers have done to support wireless connectivity.

What's changed since the Palm-size PC?

The prior generation of Palm-size PCs supported wireless connectivity via cellular protocols CDMA and GSM, which is a pay per minute solution. There were no peripherals offering fixed rate nationwide wireless solutions like CDPD (Cellular Digital Packet Data), Mobitex (Bell South) or Ardis. (Motorola). Almost all of the Palm-size PCs did not support campus wireless solutions like IEEE 802.11 or Proxim. Symbol's PT-2700 was the first Palm-size PC to integrate an IEEE 802.11 wireless connection for accessing a campus wireless network.

Pocket PC Wireless Capabilities

The Pocket PCs add many additional wireless capabilities over the Palm-size PCs. The Pocket PCs support the following wireless options: Cellular GSM and CDMA protocols, CDPD and IEEE 802.11. The following paragraphs will provide additional details on what peripherals allow the Pocket PCs to connect to wireless networks and where to find out more about them.

Cellular

The Pocket PCs support cellular access in the same manner as the Palm-size PCs did. Socket Communications (www.socketcom.com) offers a type I CompactFlash Digital Phone Card for connecting to CDMA and GSM wireless networks via your cellular phone. Xircom (www.xircom.com) offers landline and GSM wireless connectivity via their CompactCard Modem 56. Also, you can connect to some cellular phones using the serial port so you can use the CompactFlash card for other peripherals You can also connect using some cellular phones that offer infrared interfaces as well using the IrDA port on your Pocket PC. When you connect via cellular, you are able to call any ISP or private modem including your RAS server. It works just like a regular phone line but it's wireless. Connecting can take a little longer due to the fact that your cellular call is being routed to a modem, which actually calls, and handshakes with the destination.

Nationwide CDPD Service

The Pocket PCs support CDPD connectivity to the Internet. Novatel Wireless is working with Hewlett Packard to provide a CDPD cradle for their Jornada 540 series of Pocket PCs. Compaq's iPAQ will be able to use the Sierra Wireless Aircard 300 (www.sierrawireless.com) via their PC Card jacket. NextCell (www.nextcell.com) has announced their Pocket Spider CDPD CompactFlash card, which fits inside the Pocket PC. CDPD is a TCP/IP based connection to a wireless network. You must use your CDPD carrier's Internet access and you cannot dial a connection to a modem attached to your RAS server.

Campus Wireless

The Pocket PCs are blazing trails in offering the smallest device possible to connect to campus wireless networks. Compaq offers a PC Card slot jacket for their iPAQ Pocket PC which allows them to connect standard PC Cards to their Pocket PC. With the PC Card jacket for the iPAQ Pocket PC, you can use the Compaq IEEE 802.11 wireless LAN card to connect to your network using the smallest form factor of all. Symbol has updated the ruggedized PT-2700 software to include the Pocket PC applications and data. The PT-2700 has built-in support for IEEE 802.11 wireless connectivity. This connectivity is exactly what some corporate users need when they are in and around their business.

Using Wireless

I envision that some companies will switch to offering Pocket PCs because they offer comprehensive wireless support across multiple manufacturers. Compaq has show excellent vision in its support for a PC Card slot. Clearly, IEEE 802.11 wireless connectivity allows campus corporate users an additional solution to connecting to their network. The support for cellular is as simple as configuring a dialup networking connection to your ISP or corporate network. Using CDPD is very easy as well, just click to connect and enter your password and you are immediately connected to the network. When you are connected using CDPD, CDMA or GSM, you can use any TCP/IP application to access the Internet just like when you are connected via RAS.

Summary

The Pocket PCs have advanced the wireless capabilities for devices that fit in your hand to a new level. They are able to communicate with your network in ways you only thought were possible with larger notebook or Handheld PCs. Clearly this gives the Pocket PC an advantage in interoperating within a corporate environment over the Palm, including the Palm VII. Although wireless throughput speed is much slower than using a desktop modem, these wireless solutions allow corporate Pocket PC users to access their information almost anywhere.

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