All things wireless dominate show floor

HDTVs (high-definition televisions) and car stereos -- once staples of the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas -- are a thing of the past in 2002. This year, wireless technology news has blanketed the massive convention centre

          HDTVs (high-definition televisions) and car stereos -- once staples of the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas -- are a thing of the past in 2002. This year, wireless technology news has blanketed the massive convention centre.

          Sprint, ViewSonic, Motient Services, Infowave Software, and Samsung Electronics are just a few of the companies launching new products and services as well as revealing some of their as yet unannounced wireless strategies.

          Sprint appears to be the most aggressive with plans for dual mode cellular and VoIP (voice over IP) handsets and 3G (third-generation) wireless PC cards that will be co-branded with partners from the traditional modem manufacturers, Sierra Wireless and Novatel Wireless.

          "We are not just a voice company anymore," says Jason Guesman, director of business marketing at Sprint PCS, in Overland Park, Kansas.

          The 1XRT cards, with burst rates of 115Kbps and average speed of 50Kbps to 60Kbps, will be available next year. "They will be about as fast as a 56Kb (wired) modem," Guesman says.

          Sprint will also pursue the digital camera market using a smaller CF II (Compact Flash) form factor, and is working with Ricoh. When a shopper buys a Ricoh digital camera, he or she can also purchase the wireless card and sign up for Sprint data service at the same time, according to Guesman.

          On the voice side, Sprint will offer dual-mode VoIP cellular handsets by the end of this year.

          "These phones will have the same capability as the NexTel phones," Guesman says, referring to NexTel Communications' two-way communicators built into their cellular phones. "They have 10 million users and we are looking to take the NexTel customer."

          Other services on the drawing board from Sprint include instant messaging and access to wireless corporate email via a desktop solution.

          Handset manufacturers that will offer the new Sprint 3G phones include Samsung, Sanyo Electric, Hitachi, Motorola and Kyocera Wireless. All will be available mid-year.

          ViewSonic, traditionally exhibiting at CES as a monitor company, was talking up wireless, too.

          Besides the publicity it received from having Microsoft's Bill Gates hold up their prototype AirPanel 150 wireless monitor, executives said they have more wireless devices planned for the future.

          Building on its visual image technology, the company has plans to "extend down" the size of its displays to at least 3.5 inches and use the Pocket PC operating system, according to Marc McConnaughey, senior vice president, Advanced Technologies for ViewSonic, in Walnut Creek, California.

          Prior to 3G data rates there was no synergy between displays and small wireless devices, McConnaughey said. But now, with the possibility of getting always-on streaming data and video, display is more significant.

          "This is an opportunity to engage our visual technology solutions," McConnaughey says.

          ViewSonic will also offer devices customized with corporate images to major enterprise-level companies, McConnaughey says.

          Motient, the Reston, Virginia-based wireless data carrier that helped put Research in Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry device on the map, also spread its wings at CES.

          The company announced the availability of a 5-ounce, $US179 add-on wireless sleeve for the Palm V with similar add-ons for the M-series Palms and iPaq Pocket PC later this year.

          The Motient service will give users that same always-on access to corporate e-mail enjoyed by RIM users.

          Cost of the service will also be the same -- $US49.99 per month for unlimited emails and $US19.99 for an average of about 25 emails, according to Peter Belman, vice president of marketing at Motient.

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