COMDEX - Handspring's Hawkins looks to future of handhelds

LAS VEGAS - Size, security, and network access costs are the keys to the future of handheld devices, Handspring Inc. Chairman and Chief Product Officer Jeff Hawkins said here Tuesday at a keynote speech at the Comdex trade show.

"When you make things smaller they get better," said Hawkins, a founder of leading handheld maker Palm Inc. Hawkins also co-founded Handspring, a device maker that licenses the Palm OS software. Pointing to Handspring's recently announced Treo -- a combination phone and PDA (personal digital assistant) -- as an example of his smaller-is-better credo, Hawkins showed how address books and Web pages can be viewed and handily used on small-screen devices.

However, one of the not-so-obvious aspects of the increasing widespread "mobile Internet" is security, Hawkins said. Handheld communication devices are on all the time, he said, "and we've never tested the security of the cell networks."

Being constantly connected to a carrier that is then connected to the Internet is a recipe for trouble, he said.

"The opportunities for creating havoc here are very large."

While industry insiders seem to have accepted as a fundamental truth the notion that wireless devices will be ubiquitous, Hawkins goes one step further. Just as per-minute charges have dropped for landlines, they will also rapidly drop for mobile users, he said.

Once wireless infrastructure has been created, he noted, "the cost of handling one more wireless call is essentially zero."

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