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Tech Buzz 09/02

Cordless phones with mobile-style features; is it a deck of cards or a computer?

Answering the Call

You might have to strain to remember when all landline phones were still connected to their bases with cords. In a few years, you might strain to remember when cordless phones had no built-in e-mail functions. With mobile phones stealing the thunder from regular landlines, cordless phone manufacturers are fighting back by introducing mobile-style features.

Panasonic, Philips and Siemens are releasing messaging-enabled cordless phones to the European market, but no word on an arrival in the United States. Digital answering machines and integrated digital telephone books are popping up as well. And Nokia-style snap-on covers are available for some of Panasonic's European cordless products.

On the domestic front, Memorex came out with a series of cellular/landline docking stations earlier this year. Users can choose either "tel" or "cel" to make and receive calls through mobile networks or through landlines with either phone.

Manufacturers hope that catchy new technologies will drive demand, but they might make your next cordless phone-buying experience as complex as buying a new computer. Don't expect these innovations to stymie the slow movement of cell phone-only users, but they'll make using your office landline phone a more attractive option.

Size Matters

Cross a PC with a deck of cards, and you'll get San Francisco start-up OQO's ultra-personal computer. It's tiny, it's modular and it's a full-fledged PC. This is what road warriors dream about when they're napping on planes. Here's a taste of the specifications: Windows XP, a 10GB hard drive, 256MB of memory and up to a 1GHz Crusoe processor, all for about $1,000.

When you're not toting it around, this miniscule computer can be docked to a keyboard and monitor for use as a desktop. A built-in 4-inch LCD monitor and Internet capability will tide you over until you get back to the office. Did we mention it weighs less than 9 ounces? OQO's little dream machine doesn't skimp on its way to making less space equal more power. Look for it to reach the retail market right about now.

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This article was originally published in the September 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Tech Buzz 09/02.

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