March 15, 2001, 5:05 PM — WHAT CAN YOU REALLY do -- right now -- on the wireless Web? Well, today I'm going to live la vida wireless in New York City, the beating heart of the untethered world. Armed with a Palm Vx Handheld with an OmniSky modem and a Sprint PCS cell phone, I'm going to schedule meetings, confer with my editors, arrange appointments, check my stocks, make dinner reservations, buy presents for my family, and get in, out and around the Big Apple with Jetson-age ease. That is, I'm going to try.
Outside my 5th-floor window at the Soho Grand Hotel looking down on Canal Street, New Yorkers bundled in hats and scarves on this December day are scurrying between the gridlocked cars. I fire up my Palm and Sprint PCS phone with wireless Internet. The batteries are charged, and I am ready to take on Manhattan. First, however, I need a cup of coffee. Where to go? I'm sure there are dozens of coffee shops in the area, but I need to head uptown to 44th Street for my first meeting with Mark Caron, CEO of MobileSpring, a company that develops wireless applications. I remember that the Starbucks Coffee Store Locator, which I have downloaded to the Palm, is, according to Palm's website, one of the most popular applications along with an e-mail service called ThinAirMail.
In front of the hotel, I ask the doorman if it's possible to call a cab on a Palm. He laughs and says, "No way -- not in this town," and quickly flags down a taxi. Hurtling up 6th Avenue in the cab, I click on the Starbucks locator on my Palm using my stylus. I type in the address of my first meeting in Palm's Graffiti writing system. Within seconds, two Starbucks addresses pop up, the first on the corner of 6th Avenue and 42nd Street, where I ask the taxi to stop. Sure enough, there's the Starbucks. Unfortunately, it has no tables. The locator doesn't provide those kinds of details. "There's another one three blocks uptown," a woman says to me with a knowing look.
Walking along the avenue, I type a brief message to my editor on my mobile phone, using AOL's Instant Messenger system. "Starbucks located," I write. My phone instantly starts beeping. "Cool," he responds. We could have just called each other, of course, but he's in the middle of a meeting. This is pleasantly subversive -- I can see why teens in Scandinavia are addicted to text messaging. I would have loved this in high school. It's a little awkward at first, though. (Typing the word hello, for example, involves 13 keystrokes. To type the letter "L" you need to hit the "5" key three times.) The exchange is interrupted by a call from my husband, who informs me that everything is fine on the home front. I promise gifts.