DEMOMOBILE - The coolest gadgets from Demomobile

FRAMINGHAM (09/25/2003) - For two days in San Diego, the press, investors and other dignitaries got to see what's new in the world of mobility at the Demomobile 2003 show, run by IDG Executive Forums, a division of Network World.

While there was lots to see in the enterprise arena, what most of us wanted to see was some new gadgetry. The show didn't disappoint, and here's a roundup of what you might be drooling for in the next few months.

It's a Palm! It's a Game Boy!

The Tapwave Zodiac devices (there's a 32M-byte model for $299 and a 128M-byte model for $399) were clearly the ones that everyone wanted to play with. The Zodiacs are Palm OS-based handheld PDAs that also act like a personal entertainment handheld and can play games, MP3 music files and video clips. These are being aimed at the 18- to 34-year-old "executive" market.

I wouldn't expect companies to begin placing a ton of orders for these anytime soon as a way to mobilize their data-entry applications, but the specifics on the device still are enticing enough for sales executives and others who want a combination game device and PDA. The Zodiacs are expected in mid-October. Go to the Tapwave Web site to order.

Hands-free without Bluetooth

Another must-have or at least a must-see item is the Aura Communications' and fone-GEAR's Cord Free headset, which uses magnetic induction to create a hands-free and cord-free headset for mobile phones. The headset works on a single AA battery and offers up to 25 hours of talk time and up to three months of standby power, the company says. It is compatible with phones that do not have Bluetooth, yet creates the same kind of effect of not having to be connected to your phone by a cord to use a hands-free headset. My favorite phrase during the demonstration was that the device creates a "secure communication bubble" for end users. The device also might cost less than Bluetooth headsets, with starting prices ranging from $60 to $80. The product will be available in the fourth quarter, the company said. Go to the Aura Web site for more details.

Why is my cat calling me?

Many current cell phones have the ability to take caller ID and associate a photo with the call. Some also can have personalized voice ring tones associated with them. Now comes Mobile Veepers from Pulse 3D - the technology can take a two-dimensional photo and create a 3-D animated picture with voice capabilities. Soon, expect to see "face tones" that lets the caller ID have an animated photo telling you to answer the phone. More details on the technology are available at Pulse 3D's Web site. During their demo, Pulse 3D officials showed an example in which a dog was "calling" using a French voice. I guess you had to be there.

Shaw can be reached at kshaw@nww.com.

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