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"A Glimpse Into the Future"
  08/01/2000

During the recent PC Expo being held in New York City, a multitude of companies had new technologies on display. Handheld computers, Internet appliances and other gadgets were the primary focus of the four-day trade show.

Still in prototype and probably not close to reaching a consumer market, the IBM WatchPad was among the interesting new items that were unveiled at the show. The watch, which uses a small VGA screen, is capable of synchronizing data and images with a portable computer or PC via wireless connections. In addition to images, the WatchPad is capable of handling text and animation. IBM was also showcasing other products such as a new high-tech airline check-in device. IBM displayed the wireless handheld device and recently field-tested about 30 of them with a European air carrier.

IBM envisions the WatchPad as a small wearable computer that could replace many existing devices such as a much larger PDA. An example was shown that displayed an animated watch face that filled up when there was an appointment, and the appointment details were instantly available with a touch of a finger.

The same division developing the WatchPad produces the IBM MicroDrive, which is excepted to play a part in the development of the WatchPad. IBM recently released a 1GB version of the MicroDrive so storage capacity is not expected to be an issue with the small device.

The prototype of the WatchPad was physically connected to a computer via a cable, however the future version will not likely have this limitation. In fact, the next version will use Bluetooth, a technology that enables small devices to communicate without cables or wires. IBM (and many competitors) has been developing numerous devices that utilize Bluetooth to exchange data with computers

The future Internet growth for handheld devices is based around XML or the Extensible Markup Language. It is a system for defining specialized markup languages that are used to transmit formatted data. XML is conceptually related to HTML, but XML is not a markup language. It's actually a language used to create other specialized languages. The popularity of XML as a Web standard is only growing. In fact, it is the centerpiece of Microsoft's Next Generation Windows Services.

With the number of non-PC devices outdistancing their PC counterparts at the expo, it is apparent that many companies are looking to them for future growth. The number and quality of these devices are certain to proliferate with many analysts suggesting they will eventually surpass PCs in areas such as Internet access.

  - by Clayton Crooks

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  comp.sys.ibm.pc.misc
  microsoft.public.xml
  comp.sys.palmtops