Palm Computing's IIIc boasts color, new OS The...

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February 21, 2000

Palm Computing's IIIc boasts color, new OS

The much-anticipated color Palm IIIc ($449) has arrived. This version of the insanely popular Palm Computing line is being billed as the smallest and lightest (6.8 ounces) color PDA on the market. Besides the addition of color, the Palm IIIc ships with the new Palm 3.5 operating system, which offers improved performance and a few new software features (though nothing significant).

PDA users have always had a love-hate relationship with color. On the one hand, color is cool, color is so ... Y2K. On the other hand, color drives up the price and sucks up battery power. Palm Computing tries to address the power issue with a rechargeable battery that it claims will provide a respectable two weeks on a charge.

The powered desktop cradle also recharges the battery while you synchronize data with your PC, so if you do that regularly, it should stay charged.

The typical applications that come with the Palm OS benefit little from color (beyond a boost in readability). A color Palm doesn't make much sense if all you're doing is managing an address book and calendar or keeping short memos. The utility of color becomes more apparent with some of the third-party software bundled with the IIIc.

Album to Go lets you download and view color JPEG images, while Chroma Gammon (a color backgammon game) shows you the potential of color gaming. AvantGo's color Web browser is also a welcome relief from HandWeb and other ugly, text-based Palm browsers.

Forthcoming hardware such as Kodak's snap-on PalmPix digital camera and Rand McNally's map software will increase the utility of this new hand-held. Meanwhile, you can impress your friends by whipping out your Palm IIIc and boasting: "Look, it's in color! How cool is that?"

Information: 408-326-5000 or www.palm.com.

Microsoft Net keyboard ready for USB devices

Leave it to Microsoft to design a USB keyboard that also requires a PS/2 port. Such is the case with their otherwise impressive Internet Keyboard Pro ($54.95). This keyboard actually isn't a USB board, but rather, a conventional PS/2 keyboard with a two-port USB hub on it. You can use it as a PS/2-only board (if you don't have USB) -- the only things you lose are the two USB ports. Why the board can't be run solely off of USB is a question that only Microsoft can answer.

The main things going for the Internet Keyboard Pro are ergonomic comfort and Internet/multimedia hot keys. The keyboard comes with a detachable plastic wrist rest and a key layout that makes it a pleasure to use. The design, the action, the sound of the keys -- it all just feels right.

The Pro has 19 "hot keys" above the Function row. Seven of these are the typical Web navigation buttons (forward, back, refresh, favorites, etc.), one launches your e-mail program, and eight control audio and video applications (music and media players, DVDs, etc.). Two other keys launch the My Computer and MS Calculator programs, while the last puts your computer into sleep mode. Again, rather cluelessly, only four of the hot keys can be customized to launch other applications.

Despite the unfortunate dual PS/2 and USB requirements and limited hot key customization, I adore this keyboard. Being a full-time pixel pusher who has the aching wrists to prove it, I have to thank Microsoft for making my working a bit easier.

Information: 425-882-8080 or www.microsoft.com.

-Gareth Branwyn

For reviews of these and other new gadgets, visit www.street tech.com.

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