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Revolutions generate counter-revolutions. And when the dot-com world tanked, pundits everywhere proclaimed the end of certain habits of the young, rich and wired. Suits are back, lattes terribly pass� — and there’s a certain cachet to being out-of-touch, isn’t there? Sorry. Pets.com’s sock puppet may be a goner, but, like all revolutions, we’ve just thrown out the excesses while keeping the best. And while it might be arguable that it’s a good thing to be in touch 24/7, the rush to wireless communication continues, albeit with fewer players. The good news is that you don’t need to lug around a laptop to get and send your e-mail. The market is full of small, portable devices that let you give and get, discreetly. We may not yet be as hooked as the Finns are on these things, but it’s only a matter of time. Because it’s still a young market, no one has settled on any standards, much less standard devices. You can get messages on dedicated devices, on cell phones, or on PDAs with wireless capabilities. And just to keep things interesting, you can buy a hybrid of any of these. So in no particular order, let’s look at the alternatives. BLACKBERRY SEASON You’re at a conference and the speaker announces a five-minute break. In the old days, the crowd would rush toward the phones or restrooms. Now most people stay in their seats, tap-tap-tapping on little keyboards. Research in Motion llc’s Blackberry has become as ubiquitous as the cellular phone and the Palm. And for good reason: It’s small, is always on and it just works. You can get e-mail, you can synch your BlackBerry e-mail and task list with your desktop computer, and, did I mention this before? It’s small. There are only two drawbacks. It helps to have little fingers to tap out messages. Newer Blackberrys (or is it “Blackberries”?) make tapping out a message easier, with a thumb-operated trackwheel. And the menu-driven interface is easy to learn and navigate. MORE THAN ADDRESSES First they wanted to take over your calendar and contact list. Now, they want to supplant your desktop and laptop PC. The good people at Palm Inc. and its disinherited offspring, Handspring, have big ambitions for their little boxes. The Palm operating system is a computing platform, notwithstanding the early reined-in ambitions of the first Palm Pilot. Palm fired the opening salvo with its Palm VII, which looked almost like a throwback, coming after the sleek and svelte V. But it needed its additional bulk for the built-in wireless capabilities. With the VII (and a service plan, anywhere from about $10/months for a basic plan giving you 30 messages a month, to $45/month for unlimited use), you can send and receive e-mail, as well as get clipped versions of Web pages. Handspring’s not about to get left in the cyberdust. Finally making good on its expansion module promises, you can buy a wireless modem module from GoAmerica and transform your Visor into a portable e-mailer. The bundled software gives you access to 10 POP3 (the most common type) e-mail accounts, which should be sufficient for all but the most obsessively communicative. Pocket PC addicts can join in the fun, too. Add a Socket phone card, and you can hook up your cellular phone to your Pocket PC. Several phone models, like Nokia’s 6185 and Qualcomm’s QCP 2700 and 860, work with the card out of the box. You’ll have to check with other manufacturers to see if there are drivers that work with the card. CHATTING OPTIONAL In Finland, teenagers zap cell phone messages to each other across classrooms, dance clubs and cafes. And they point their cell phones at vending machines to buy soda. We’re not quite in that league yet. But some cellular providers aim to change that unhappy (for them) state of affairs. Sprint, Verizon and others offer wireless messaging plans, along with the appropriate phones. Sprint goes further and blurs the line by offering the Palm Powered Sprint PCS Phone, otherwise known as the Kyocera QCP 6035. It’s bigger than a phone, with a slightly smaller than a Palm screen, and allows clipped Web service, e-mail and the usual Palm apps. And Nextel, long a pioneer in supplying more than phone service, offers wireless messaging and two-way, private communications. You’ve probably seen a Nextel user walking down the street barking, walkie-talkie style, into an i1000 phone. The usual caveats: Don’t expect lots of room to be eloquent. And tapping out messages on the phone keypad is awkward at best. OK, IF YOU INSIST If you insist on lugging around a laptop, you too can be wireless more easily now. Just buy either an Apple iBook or Titanium-series, add an “AirPort” card and you’ll be good to go at Starbuck’s cafes around the nation. At least, soon — Starbucks and Compaq have teamed up to offer AirPort, or 802.11b connectivity in coffee palaces around the nation. But most people will buy a PC card for their Windows-based laptop. As for software, you can use your usual e-mail client and pretend that nothing’s different, except that you’re not tethered to any wires. But for something really different, and perhaps a bit obnoxious, use MSN’s instant messaging system to zap instant missives to someone with a cell phone. There you go. Only a couple of years ago, you had to come up with a good reason to buy this gear, which was expensive and worked fitfully. Now you have to think up reasons notto be connected to your law firm and company’s network. IT’S IN THE AIR: A SAMPLER OF WIRELESS MESSAGING DEVICES Research In Motion Limited (RIM) Blackberry Enterprise Edition 857 FEATURES: Integrated e-mail/organizer software; docking cradle; desktop software. Palm, Inc. Palm VII FEATURES: Usual Palm OS features, plus Web access (clipped) and e-mail (from AOL, too); ability to receive wireless datebook updates. Handspring Visor Edge/Prism/Platinum with GoAmerica Minstrel Wireless Modem Same as the Palm, but with GoAmerica wireless capabilities. Software gives access to 10 POP e-mail accounts. Hewlett-Packard Company Jornada with Digital Phone Card FEATURES: enables Jornada Pocket PCs to connect via cell phones; e-mail and wireless file transfer capabilities. Nextel Communications i100 plus FEATURES: Wireless web, 2-way messaging, text messages (varying plans).

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