Here’s the heartening truth about handheld computers: It makes sense to champion the little guys. Microsoft recently revamped its portable computing strategy – nudging aside the clunky Windows CE for the easier-to-use Pocket PC system (available on the newest models from Compaq, Casio, and HP) – but it’s still playing catch-up with Palm.
The most desirable machine out there is the sexy new Palm-compatible Handspring Visor Edge ($399.99, RCS Computer Experience, three locations including 575 Madison, at 56th), the only ultraslim (less than half an inch, and 4.8 ounces) handheld to accept Springboard modules – plug-and-play cards and devices that turn a Visor into everything from a cell phone to an MP3 player. (For its part, Palm is about to release two handhelds – the m500 and m505 – that will accept Secure Digital and MultiMediaCard memory cards, but not Springboard modules; all “expansion slots” are not created equal.) The 8-MB rechargeable Edge comes in metallic silver and blue (red is only available direct from handspring.com) and has a slide-on saddle that accepts the nearly 50 currently available modules – with many more to come.
One of the coolest new modules is the Margi Presenter-to-Go ($299.99, RCS), complete with credit-card-size remote, which lets you connect your Visor directly to a VGA display (a digital projector, for example) to run a PowerPoint presentation without a laptop. The featherweight eyemodule2 ($199.99, RCS) improves on the original camera by capturing full-color digital shots and mini-movies (up to 20 seconds in QuickTime format), which you can e-mail to friends. The InnoGear MiniJam MP3 player ($269.95, RCS) is the first Springboard MP3 player to have its own MultiMedia card slot, so you can expand memory in 32- or 64-MB increments. And the Magellan GPS Companion ($149, palmgear.com) is a pint-size Global Positioning System satellite receiver that pinpoints your location to within 50 feet, then charts your progress on maps on the Visor’s screen.
To mingle with fellow Visor users – and get the skinny on the latest toys and tools – visit visorcentral.com and click on software for links to sites that offer the latest titles. Among the best of them is palmgear.com. The unofficial clubhouse for Palm OS users, PalmGear offers more than 9,000 software programs, organized in a database that lets you view titles by release date to solidify your status as a handheld hipster. A simple icon system identifies whether a program is Mac- or PC-compatible and color or black-and-white, and diehards can subscribe to newsletters with the latest headlines about how to stay chronically connected.
C-Net’s thriving software area, download.com, also features an impressive selection of Palm programs sorted by release date, popularity, and categories like business and Internet. (This week, the editors are talking up TealDoc and Documents to Go, which let you access spreadsheets and word-processor documents on your handheld, and Biplane Ace, a dogfight game released in February.) Each listing includes a product overview, links, reader reviews, and a handy “clock this download” feature that calculates how long it will take to download the file based on your modem speed – so you don’t waste all day waiting around for that must-have application to come down the pipe.