What Can't You Run With a Palm?

Not much. Your TV cable box, a slide-show presentation, even a Lego robot -- they're just some of the things that answer to the handheld devices

By Jeff Green

Most users know they can sync their Palms with a computer and keep track of personal information from their PCs. (I say most because I have a co-worker who uses his Handspring Visor religiously, but still doesn't know how to hook it up to his computer.) And by now, many users are also well aware of the handheld devices' ability to send information to another Palm using a built-in infrared (IR) device.

But beyond that, most people don't realize there is a whole array of electronic gadgets they can control with their Palms. One product I find really interesting is Bachmann Software's (bachmannsoftware.com) Printboy software ($15) that allows you to print directly from the Palm. Just attach a $60 infrared device, which Bachmann also sells, to the printer and select the driver in the handheld's software. Presto! You're Guttenberg.


  You can even use some configurations of the software to print the month-at-a-glance calendar right from your Palm. For anyone who has ever wanted a hard copy of the days' events when far from the office PC, this alone is a pretty nifty innovation.

Cutting Edge Software's (cesinc.com) Quickoffice ($40) even allows you to print Word and Excel documents and charts right from the Palm without having to first sync them to the computer. That way, you can carry around the Palm's IR adapter and use just about any printer, anywhere. I've never been a fan of creating spreadsheets on the Palm, but, in a pinch, it might make a great fallback to illustrate important data or sales trends.

Another cool remote-control Palm tool is the SlideShow Commander from Synergy Solutions Inc. (synsolutions.com). This $50 program not only turns the Palm into a cordless mouse for operating PowerPoint presentations, it also allows the user to have a copy of the presentation on the Palm.


  You can read the notes and details on your Palm as you navigate the presentation up on the screen. It's also possible to make notations on the Palm version of the presentation and have them appear on the big screen. In a similar vein, Ibrite powerViewer ($40) from ibrite (ibrite.com) allows you to take a PowerPoint presentation along in the Palm, even beam it to others.

And you can have fun, too. Pacific Neo-Tek (pacificneotek.com) has its OmniRemote program for controlling TVs, VCRs, and cable set-top boxes. Just pull the Palm OS device out of your pocket protector and use the $20 program to surf channels. Neo-Tek also makes infrared attachments for Palm devices for those wanting more precise control. In the case of Handspring, $60 buys a Springboard expansion module with the same functions.


  Third-party developers have come up with software to control other audio and video devices. In fact, if something comes with a remote, there's probably a way to control with a Palm. OmniRemote, for example, has a program that allows Palm users to order around Lego's Mindstorm robots.

If you haven't seen them, Lego's modular system combines its building blocks with technology to produce little automatons that can act as sentries, shoot movies, even wander around the room on predetermined missions: "Robot -- go forth and conquer the world! Oh, and grab my documents from the printer."

The Palm-controlled world doesn't end in the den or play room. Mobile Administrator (mobileadministrator.com) is a Palm-capable program that will even let you take control of your home PC or office network from the Palm wherever you are.

It's probably not for the everyday user, but it's a neat way for the harried IT exec to keep up with what's going on at the office while slaving away at the golf course. PalmVNC from Harakan Software provides a similar capability to work from anywhere you can hook up your PalmOS computer. Pretty soon, I'm going to be able to stay in bed all day and let my Palm bring the world to me. "Robot, fetch my breakfast!"

Green , BusinessWeek correspondent based in Detroit, is crazy about handhelds. Follow his perspectives on Palm-based technologies, only on BW Online

Edited by Douglas Harbrecht

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