Palm power Featured

9:51am EDT July 22, 2002

Ever been out meeting with clients and felt the need to check your e-mail back at the office? Did you just put all your retirement money into an Internet IPO and want to know how it’s doing, but you’re stuck in a downtown traffic jam?

Ok, it’s true that not everyone needs access to the Internet when they’re out of the office for a few hours, but for those who do, there’s a solution: the Minstrel from Novatel Wireless.

If you’re the type who feels the need to have information at all times, it’s a given that you already have a Palm III, the personal digital assistant made by 3Com.

The Minstrel is a cradle that the Palm plugs into, giving you wireless access to the Internet. The modem is only 5.5 inches long, which adds about an inch to the length of the Palm, and weighs 5.4 ounces. The unit comes with an HTML Web browser that automatically eliminates graphics to make sites manageable for the Palm.

You can use any ISP and e-mail POP account, but you do have to use Novatel’s cellular network to communicate. The Minstrel transmits small packets of data, and users are billed for the amount of data sent, not the length of time connected to the Internet. The download speed is 19.2 kbps.

“We are going after the business customer and the mobile professional who needs to tie into the corporate intranet to stay in touch with e-mail,” says Mona Thomas, manager of marketing for Novatel.

The cellular network the Minstrel uses is available to about 70 percent of the business population, plus some Canadian provinces, parts of China and New Zealand. The Minstrel retails for $369, but is available through some cellular resellers for less when bundled with an airtime contract. Airtime starts at $15 per month.

How to reach: Novatel Wireless or (888) 888-9231

Todd Shryock ( is SBN’s special reports editor.

Personal Digital Assistants, such as the 3Com Palm III, have become standard issue for the corporate executive. But are these important business tools, or just gadgets with a lot of “gee whiz” factored in? Consider the results from this recent CNN poll:

What do you think about PDAs? Are they:

  • Useful productivity enhancers — 44 percent.

  • Status symbols for the geek elite — 17 percent.

  • Overpriced gadget-of-the-moment — 21 percent.

  • The wave of the future — 18 percent.