Saturday, December 1, 2001

What wireless is what? A survey of wireless products


By Steve Niles

We've been talking a lot in this issue about the various forms of wireless technology, but we haven't yet really explored the type of hardware you'll need to make your Palm handheld wireless. There are a number of different options out there, and I'll attempt to outline them here.

The Xircom Wireless LAN Module

If you're just trying to connect to your LAN (Local Area Network) at home or in the office, the Xircom Wireless LAN Module for Palm m500 series handhelds (at,1298,0-0-1_1-1730,00.html) is just what you need. Be sure to look for the review of the device by Editor-in-Chief David Gewirtz elsewhere in this issue.

The module gives you wireless access to the Web, email, and network resources via 802.11b wireless technology. The module is a "sled" that slides onto the back of your Palm handheld, as you can see in Figure A.


The Xircom Wireless LAN Module for Palm m500 series slides onto the Palm handheld. (click for larger image)

The range of 802.11b is limited to a relatively short range-roughly the scope of the average office. If you're looking to connect while on the go, you're going to need a more wide range wireless solution.

Palm VIIx

The Palm VIIx (at and its predecessor, the Palm VII, are classic examples of wirelessly enabled Palm handhelds. They possess all the functionality you've come to expect from the Palm OS, plus, by simply flipping up the built-in antenna, you've got instant wireless Internet and email access.

You can sign up for monthly service, just like with your cell phone, except that you pay by the amount of data you send or receive, rather than by the number of minutes you're online. Palm.Net wireless service starts at $9.99 per month and goes up to $44.99 per month for unlimited wireless usage.

A big advantage of using your Palm VIIx to surf the Internet is that you can make use of Web clipping applications to grab just the information you want, making for much faster access. You can learn more about the various Web clipping applications available at


If you own a Palm V series handheld, you're not out of luck. OmniSky makes a modem accessory that can be easily attached to your Palm handheld in order to give it wireless capability. The modem is styled to match the Palm V and adds less than half an inch to the thickness and length of the handheld. The OmniSky Minstrel V Modem is pictured attached to a Palm V in Figure B.


The OmniSky Minstrel V Modem provides wireless connectivity.

You can find more information on the OmniSky Minstrel V Modem at To see how the OmniSky modem stacks up against the Palm VII, you can read Jason Perlow's article, "OmniSky goes head-to-head with the Palm VII" in the February 2000 issue of PalmPower at