Handhelds and other 'non-standard' computers are the bread and butter of this year's Comdex IT show in Las Vegas. Bill Gates lauded the tablet/notebook last night in his keynote speech while companies showing a variety of PDAs (personal digital assistants) and add-ons at a press viewing here.
Oddest thing seen at Mobile Focus, a round-up of the latest and upcoming smaller devices for analysts and the press, was a Handspring Visor module that can give you a massage. The Raycom device works by sending electrical impulses down two wires that are connected to pads similar to those one wears if getting a cardiograph.
The sensation isn't entirely unpleasant, but the vehemence with which Handspring staff insisted that PC Advisor’s news team didn’t touch the pads while the device was active worried us somewhat. At around £100 the Raycom module isn't cheap, nor is it really very good — but it is a little indicator as the breadth of possibilities available to PDA makers and their partners.
PC Advisor also got its first close look at the Ericsson T68 GPRS colour-screen phone last night and very nice it is, too. Around the same size as the anorexic Nokia 8210, the T68 is a change in design ethic by Ericsson which may or may not save the firm's bacon. Ericsson has now passed handset manufacture and a lot of design to Sony in the pair's joint venture.
Another glimpse of inevitability was present on Sony's desk at Mobile Focus. Combining a PC and an entertainment centre the Vaio MX is seen, as one vendor who was with us said, as "the future of PCs". This may or may not be true but the Sony is an inviting machine and, if combined with instant-on RAM technology and a dramatic price cut using economies of scale (providing the US economy picks up), could well supplant the hi-fi in the living room.