How effective is self-service as a delivery vehicle?
The Palm VII offers the smoothest out-of-the-box experience yet.
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If you've been holding off on equipping your sales force with a Palm handheld, thinking it was nothing more than a glorified organizer, then the Palm VII could be the one to change your mind. The Palm VII adds wireless information access to the popular Palm without compromising on its shirt-pocket size, ease of use or low price.

This latest Palm resembles the popular Palm III and includes all of the same features. It uses the same accessories, synchronizes with your desktop computer through an included cradle, and runs all of the many third-party software applications available for the Palm OS. The Palm VII has the same improved screen and faster processor as the Palm IIIx but is still stuck with just 2 megabytes of RAM. It's about a half-inch longer than the III series to accommodate a battery for the two-way radio. The only noticeable difference is an antenna, which sits flush at the side of the device when not in use. The antenna is rigid but flexible enough to prevent it from accidentally breaking off.

The Palm VII provides the smoothest out-of-the-box experience of any wireless solution we've seen yet. To get some idea of how it can reduce the strain on your IS department, consider how easy it is to set up. The first-time user just lifts the antenna to be automatically connected to Palm.Net, Palm's wireless portal, enters a few personal details, including credit card number and seconds later is on the network. Palm.Net uses a combination of SSL and Certicom's Elliptic Curve Cryptography to ensure secure connections.

A number of Palm Query Applications, or PQAs, are pre-installed on the device. Most are designed for mainstream business users and consumers, including a FedEx package tracker, airline and traffic information and some useful directories. However, the Palm VII is easily adapted for enterprise use, either by installing AvantGo software on your server, or by creating your own PQAs. More PQAs can be downloaded from Palm.Net.

The Palm VII retains the platform's well-known ease of use. Unlike other wireless solutions, there's no need to carry a wireless modem and a handheld since the two-way radio and wireless antenna are integrated into the device. Most remarkably, Palm has been able to achieve wireless connectivity without putting a strain on the battery. In an ingenious bit of engineering, the two-way radio is powered by its own battery, which gets trickle charged by the AAA batteries that power the device itself.

Unfortunately, while it's possible to send and receive wireless e-mail with the device, it requires a separate e-mail address at Palm.Net.

For the right user, the Palm VII will pay for itself, but because of the way the service is priced, you'll need to carefully consider who in your organization should be given a Palm VII. Palm charges by the kilobyte and they can quickly add up. There are two service plans: Basic service for $9.99 a month includes 50 kilobytes. Expanded service for $24.99 a month includes 150 kilobytes. Each additional kilobyte is 30 cents.

The Palm VII is priced at $599. For more information contact 3Com at www.palm.com.
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