March 01, 2001
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio March 2001 Current Issue
March 2001 Tech filesPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:


BY Bob Walters

As the Internet becomes more ubiquitous, phones, PDAs and PCs are scrambling to keep up

As recently as 1995, the World Wide Web was still a mysterious unknown to much of the population. Today it’s hard for many of us to imagine getting through a workday without the Internet.

At first, we were limited to access from desktop PCs. Very quickly we became a nation of laptop warriors, connecting to every phone in sight. Now we have handheld devices and cellular phones that access the Internet via wireless technology.

So what’s coming next? Here are a few technologies that will greatly expand the reach of the Internet in the near future.

Bluetooth is a postage-sized radio chip that, when installed in a cell phone, PC or other device, lets users share data wirelessly over short distances. No more pulling up floors or tearing into walls to install network cables. Eventually, because of the small size and broad acceptance, you might have a smart card that communicates with a store’s computers to tell you where an item is located and lets you pay electronically.

Among the latest developments: Samsung offers a cell phone/handheld computer that has a larger display screen but is missing the keypad. Motorola and Sagem also have demonstrated cell phones with no keypads. To make a call, you tap on the screen to display your address book or a keypad. The devices can deliver services beyond calls, via the wireless Internet. Larger, color LCD screens mean easier-to-read e-mails, news bites and, in the future, streaming video.

The latest gadget for PDAs is a digital camera. An add-on card for the Handspring Visor lets you take a black-and-white picture and beam it to other handhelds running the Palm OS or send it as an e-mail attachment.

Recently, several hotel chains, including Bass, Hilton, Marriott, Choice and Starwood, have announced plans to provide wireless hotel reservations via Internet-enabled Palm VIIs and cellular phones.

With so many of us flying, who can afford to be out of reach of the Internet? Soon you will be able to plug your notebook PC or PDA into a dataport at your seat and connect to the Web.

One project is Boeing’s Connexion (, where special antennae and a Web server are installed on each plane to communicate with low-earth-orbit satellites and ground-based servers at DSL speed. The cost for this service is projected to be around $17 an hour for real-time access to the Internet. Boeing is planning to start testing domestically in the coming months.

Another option, now being developed by Tenzing (, requires the installation of a Tenzing server on planes. Passengers would have to download and install Tenzing software. The service would batch e-mails, sending them back and forth over narrow bandwidth using higher orbiting satellites. Popular Web sites would be stored on the in-flight server, somewhat like a portable ISP. Charges for Tenzing service will probably be around $15 to $20 per flight; a flat monthly fee will be available for frequent flyers.

Not to be left out, In-Flight Network ( is poised to start domestic testing of an onboard package of e-mail, live television, Internet and corporate intranet access. In-Flight Network now delivers most of the entertainment on airlines by using a series of satellite services. In-Flight is looking at charges similar to Tenzing and a possible $20 to $25 per month subscription for frequent flyers.

These onboard services will probably not provide real-time surfing until 2003.

Bob Walters, based in Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, is the founder of Phoenix Solutions and developer of MeetingTrak software.

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