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Wireless Platforms Aim to Amaze

The Same, but Different

Before we examine the products in depth, it's worth summarizing the commonalities and differences. Each platform has packed a tremendous amount of capability into a very small footprint, and each constitutes a full-blown OS environment with features such as multitasking, memory management and complete tools for third-party application development. Each platform offers security, mainly through VPNs, and each supports the most common wireless networks, such as IrDA and Bluetooth in the personal area and CDMA2000 1X GSM/ GPRS in the wide area. Many also support Wi-Fi. All have built-in organizer capabilities, and all support market-leading messaging systems, such as SMS and MMS. Each platform works with dominant e-mail systems, such as Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes and Internet protocols like IMAP and POP3. All have competent WML (Wireless Markup Language) and HTML browsers, and all are capable of TCP/IP networking. Finally, major software vendors such as IBM and Oracle are extending their enterprise apps to each of these platforms.

What differentiates the platforms, and sometimes products within a family, is their emphasis on phones or PDAs. It's unlikely that a combo phone-PDA will perform as well as a single-purpose device. Each has a unique user interface and approaches to security differ. RIM has its own end-to-end security model, while PalmSource and Symbian use third-party VPNs and Microsoft includes PPTP and L2TP/IPsec VPN protocols.

Although all platforms support Java, Symbian also offers MIDP 2.0 and Personal Java 1.1.1a. And, not surprisingly, Microsoft has the strongest support for .Net on its platforms, though third-party tools are available for others if you're interested in Microsoft programming approaches--OLE, .Net and Visual Basic. How browsers format and render complex pages can vary, meaning that one device may be much more usable for some content than its rivals.

Another differentiator is the wireless networks supported. The trend has been for PDAs to support Wi-Fi or cellular and for smartphones to support cellular, but more and more smartphones are supporting Wi-Fi as well.

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