Two-way paging provides a ramp of opportunity for handheld computers, but the telecommunications industry and computer manufacturers still have a few differences to overcome.
For instance, telecommunications operators give away cellular phones to sign up customers for service, or lease the device to the user. Computer manufacturers don’t give away computers and rarely lease them.
Barney Dewey of Apple Computers Inc. wonders whether telecom users who are accustomed to free phones and leased pagers will spend $600 on a device just to send short messages. Dewey is the communications product line manager for Apple Computer’s Newton Systems Group.
“It’s an issue of applications and the way service is paid for,” Dewey said.
Hewlett Packard Co. is marketing a palmtop personal computer with SkyTel 2-Way paging service. 2-Way users can buy or rent the Tango pager, but they must purchase the 11-ounce HP 200 LX Palmtop PC. It is priced at about $550.
Apple Computer has a similar device, the Newton MessagePad, that can perform paging functions with a PC card. The MessagePad weighs about a pound without batteries and is priced at about $600.
“Two-way is a different kind of use. SkyTel has their hands around a good application and we want to support as many wireless applications as possible,” Dewey said.
“But people want to carry the device on their belt or pocket. They want to wear it. Even with the smallest PDA (personal digital assistant), you have to carry it with you. Will users do that just to send short messages?” Dewey asked.
The SkyTel Palmtop is 6.3 inches tall and 3.4 inches wide, and about an inch thick.