Palm boasts first credit card purchase from PDA |  Hardware

Las Vegas -- Palm has partnered with payment software maker VeriFone and a point of sale terminal manufacturer to create a system that will allow Palm users to make credit card purchases using their handheld computer by year-end, Palm's CEO announced Saturday night.

To prove the point, Palm CEO Carl Yankowski performed what he called the world's first commercial credit card purchase using a handheld computer. Using the infrared port on his Palm, Yankowski beamed his personal credit card information to a cashier at a mock Sharper Image store set up on stage here at the Consumer Electronics Show.

"This may be Las Vegas but there's no smoke and mirrors here, this is the real McCoy" Yankowski said. "This is my real Visa, I'm probably going to get a real bill for this -- in fact, I definitely am."

The electronic credit card demonstration is the first step in Palm's long-term vision to turn its handheld computers into "eWallets" that could replace the bundle of cards and paper that most people carry around in their wallets, such as a drivers license, library cards, health insurance cards and pictures of loved ones, as well as credit and debit cards, Yankowski said.

"Later this year you'll be able to use your Palm to make [secure point of sale] transactions as if a debit or credit card were in the device itself," the Palm chief promised. "Next holiday season we feel you'll be able to do your Christmas shopping by beaming your way through the checkout."

One attendee who watched Yankowski's speech was impressed by the technology, but said he'd need to learn more about how his sensitive data would be protected before he'd go on an electronic shopping spree.

"The thing that struck me was that my Palm could easily get stolen. That's not to say it doesn't work, but I'm not sure that the technology is quite there yet," said Walter Minkel, a technology editor with the School Library Journal, a professional publication for librarians.

To pay for his goods in the demonstration, Yankowski first entered a personal identification number to access an embedded Visa card application on his Palm computer. He then aimed the device at the point of sale terminal and beamed his card information to it. The encrypted data was transferred to the merchant's own accounting system, and Yankowski was presented with both a paper receipt and an electronic receipt stored in his Palm.

The bill for the credit card purchase will be delivered to Yankowski a few weeks later in the old fashioned way, by snail mail, said a Visa representative who joined the Palm chief on stage.

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