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Ed Curran: Latest Gadgets Get Rid of Wires

Aired September 26, 2000 - 2:40 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: When the information superhighway took off, everybody was in a hurry to get wired. You and I, though, still have wires.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: I know. For most folks, though, being wired these days, in the new millennium, means just too much coffee.

As far as their gadgets are concerned, they want unwired; and Ed Curran, our technogadget guy, who is here today without his cape -- did you notice that? He doesn't have any cape today. He's at the Personal Communications Industry Association trade show in Chicago.

Take it away, Ed.

ALLEN: Hang up the phone there, Ed, you're on TV.

ED CURRAN CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's where we're going to be hanging out, you know, over the next couple of days, looking at all these great wireless devices.

You know, it's great to be wireless. You've got your wireless phone and you've got your personal digital assistant and you can take notes and all of that. But why do all this?

I mean, you've got a personal digital assistant like the Handspring Visor -- now what you can do, which was just unveiled yesterday, is you can have one of these.

You know what this is? This turns your visor into a cell phone. All you do is slide the VisorPhone into the top of the visor. It suddenly becomes a cell phone. No more fumbling; I can put this in my ear, talk on the phone hands-free while I take notes -- and do that automatically. I can even speed dial people right on the face of the screen here; just touch one of these buttons and dial somebody.

I can bring up a list of numbers that I recently called or people who recently called me and dial them back with just a touch. The VisorPhone will be available by the end of the year for about $300. Very exciting for the Handspring Visor.

We're starting to see this type of thing where we combine a lot of our gadgets together, and the Handspring Visor is really very exciting from that standpoint, because they included this springboard port on the back that allows different modules to be put in. The module I have in here is a modem that allows you to use the OmniSky service to go on the Internet wirelessly; and all you have to do is slide this modem, once again, into your Handspring Visor, and at about $300 you're on the Internet. That's it; costs you about $40 a month to access whatever you need to access. It comes up right on the screen, you just touch where you want to go and it takes you there automatically.

And this is the OmniSky service, and this will be out very shortly for the Handspring.

Now here is something that is from Glenayre, and it's called @ctivelink, and think of this as you would think of a pager. This is always on. You can -- it's always on, whether it's in your Handspring Visor or not in your Handspring Visor -- it's collecting pages for you, collecting e-mails for you. Whatever you need to take care of.

You slide it into your visor and you can wirelessly send and receive your e-mail and your pages and all that type of thing; very exciting. Sells for about $400 or so; $428 to be exact, but comes with a Handspring Visor.

These visors sell, by the way -- for the deluxe version, for about $250. So, for $428 you get this messaging system.

Now, if you've got all the information you need, but you don't know where you're going, that's where you need one of these. This is a brand-new GPS unit for the Handspring Visor.

Again, it slides into the back of the visor and also has memory cards that go back here; and this particular unit here, the GeoDiscovery Geode, sells for $250. These memory cards allow you to download maps -- and just put the memory card in there and your map shows up on the face of the unit here.

Here's a map of Chicago and, as you can see, if I take my stylus and I go in here and I touch on this icon here and press "details," it will show me that that's McCormick Place, where this PCIA expo is going on; and shows me all the details of McCormick Place and details about the city of Chicago. GPS uses satellites that orbit the earth to tell you where you are on the face of the earth and give you information.

And let me show you this for the Handspring. This not wireless. It is an mp3 player that you simply plug into the Handspring Visor and gives you all your tunes right here in your unit. See, it plugs in right there.

So, what we've done here is taken one piece of technology, a personal digital assistant -- in this case, the Handspring Visor -- turned it into many different products just by using these plug-in modules.

So that's part of a trend that we're seeing now: being able to combine your cellular and your PDA and your mp3 and your GPS and everything else all together into one unit and give it more functionality.

There's something else you're going to be hearing a lot more about is something called Bluetooth. Bluetooth is a wireless radio technology that ties all of your gadgets together. It works within about a 30-foot radius or so and it replaces cords.

In this case, this is a brand new Bluetooth-enabled telephone that Motorola unveiled yesterday. This telephone has a little transmitter-receiver chip inside that works on this Bluetooth technology. You have your telephone, you have a card like this that you slide into your computer, and the two can be linked within 30 feet wirelessly by using Bluetooth technology.

There will also be Bluetooth headsets, where you can wear a headset on your head and have your telephone on your hip or in your briefcase and not be tied together with cords. We'll see a lot of Bluetooth products coming out, this one of the latest from Motorola. It will be available sometime in the next year, tying together this telephone way a myriad of products that also have bluechip types of -- Bluetooth-types of chips in their technology.

And finally, we all like to be on the Internet and we always want to go at a high rate of speed and be surfing the Internet at a high rate of speed.

When you're plugged in at home, a lot of people use a modem that's probably 56k. Pretty fast. If you have high-speed Internet service at home, maybe you're running at 128 kilobits per second.

This is Ricochet; and it allows you to be on the Internet with your laptop computer at speeds of 128k, about twice the speed of what most of you use at home right now.

All you do is get this modem, you use it with your laptop computer, and you're able to surf the Internet wirelessly, but it seems just like you're surfing at home. You have all the abilities you would have at home. On here we have some video that's downloaded through this wirelessly.

The modem itself is on special right now at about $99, and service costs you about $75 or $80 a month. It's, right now, available in about eight different cities and it will be available in a lot more by the end of the year. Ricochet: very exciting, high- speed technology.

WATERS: I made a lot of furious notes here and I don't know what any of it means.

CURRAN: Stop by, you can always drop me a note and I'll tell you, OK?

WATERS: All right, that's good.

ALLEN: We just sit here as our mouths agape in awe, don't we, Lou.

WATERS: Exactly.

ALLEN: Thank you. We are a day late and a dollar short.

WATERS: Thank you, Ed. We'll see you next week. I, of course, have gotten my first push-button phone now, so I'm going in the right direction.



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