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PALM’S PILOT IS HONORED WITH `PRODUCT OF YEAR’

The clear leader in innovation as honored at the third annual Mobile Insights Mobility Awards dinner was Palm Computing Inc.’s Pilot organizer, a diminutive device that currently has no wireless access.

Jeff Hawkins, Palm’s chief technical officer, was named industry Person of the Year for creating the Pilot, and the device itself won kudos in the Personal Digital Assistant, Remote Access Hardware and Product of the Year categories. The awards were voted on by a panel of judges that included industry analysts.

The Pilot’s small form factor prevents the device from even accommodating a PC Card modem. Palm, a division of U.S. Robotics Corp., is working to integrate wireless communications capability into the 10-month-old product.

Hawkins predicts such capability is at least a year off, however, as Palm is determined to further reduce the Pilot’s small form factor and retain its ease of use. “We want to own the pocket,” he said, adding, “The Pilot is the largest and heaviest product I will ever make.” In the interim, third parties are developing wireless peripherals for the product, Hawkins said. A new division of NovAtel Wireless Inc. in San Diego is bringing out a Cellular Digital Packet Data modem that attaches to the Pilot.

Interestingly, the raft of handheld personal computers based on Microsoft Corp.’s Windows CE operating platform did not fare well in the judges’ eyes. CE-based PDAs represented three of the four nominees in the palmtop computer category but were beaten out by the Psion Series 3C from Britain’s Psion plc.

Windows CE did win in the system software division, however, showing its potential as a platform for future product development. In the wireless smart phone category, Nokia Mobile Phones application-laden 9000 Communicator beat out three terminals designed for use on AT&T Wireless Services Inc.’s CDPD Pocket-Net service.

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