Saturday, July 1, 2000

Palm OS thrives at PC Expo

TRADESHOW REPORT

By Steve Niles

PC Expo 2000 was held at Javits Center in New York City from June 27 through June 29. It was a massive event, making it impossible to see everything, so in the day I spent roaming amongst the garish product displays, I made it my goal to check out everything involving the Palm operating system. This is not as easy a chore as it once was, as the pool is in the process of expanding now that Sony is adopting the Palm OS for the company's soon-to-be-launched foray into the handheld market.

Before I checked out Sony's new device, however, I had to pay a visit to Handspring.

An expanding pack of third party developers

I have to admit, as I threaded my way through the elaborately staged booths covering the convention center floor, I was less than enthusiastic about visiting the folks at Handspring. I really wanted to see what Palm was offering, but I figured I'd visit Handspring first to get it over with. I would soon be changing my tune, however.

As a newly hired PalmPower editor, I'm still learning about all the players. I didn't know much about Handspring's Visor at all. To me, it was just a Palm device with a more colorful form factor. I knew a little bit about its Springboard expansion slot, but never having seen one, it didn't mean much to me.

I was immediately surprised by the size of Handspring's presence at the Expo. Around a center stage where a demonstration of the Visor's capabilities was being held at regular intervals throughout the day, small stands were arranged for Handspring's many third party developers. As I made the rounds, I gradually became acquainted with the idea of the Springboard expansion modules.

If you're not familiar with them, the modules are small, cartridge-like pieces of hardware that slide and snap into the Visor's unique Springboard expansion slot. These instantly switch the Visor's functionality from that of a mere organizer to whatever the module is designed to do, whether it be an MP3 player, a radio, a GPS locator, an ebook, a digital camera, or what have you. These conversions happen almost instantly, with no software drivers to install or special adapters needed. It's just plug-and-play.

I truly was impressed by the design. As a banner on the side of the Handspring booth declared, it seems you really can make the Visor "whatever the heck you want it to be."

Of course, not having used any of these Springboard modules, I can't verify how well they do what they say they can. However, they show great potential, and we here at PalmPower can't wait to get our hands on them to see for ourselves. Here are a few of the more interesting modules I came across.