MIMO antenna technology uses a single channel for multiple data streams, greatly enhancing both range and throughput; DHCP server; WEP and WPA security; firewall with SPI and NAT; VPN pass-through
Theoretical maximum throughput of 108Mbps (compared to 802.11g's 54Mbps); double the range of 802.11b/g gear; improved performance in mixed 802.11b/g/pre-N networks
Printed setup guide and CD-based wizard make installation straightforward; Web-based interface for router management
£70 - £100 (inc. VAT)
The 802.11n standard is still being ironed out, and the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) doesn't expect to ratify this developing specification until 2006. However, products based on competing versions of 802.11n's powerful smart-antenna technology, called MIMO, are already available. One of the best of these is Belkin's Wireless Pre-N router.
MIMO stands for Multiple Input Multiple Output, and allows a wireless device to make more efficient use of data transmissions in indoor environments. The 802.11n standard will include some version of MIMO, and it promises to deliver 108Mbps throughput and double the range of today's Wi-Fi gear. The smart antennas on a MIMO router can hand off reception and transmission dynamically to each other, adjusting for the clearest data path on the fly. This increases both range and throughput at any given distance in an indoor setting, especially in multipath or interference-prone environments.
Because early 'pre-N' products such as Belkin's are based on proprietary solutions rather than a ratified standard, mixing and matching gear across vendors typically results in degraded performance. Also, when 802.11n becomes a reality, today's Pre-N/MIMO solutions probably won't be fully interoperable with gear based on the ratified spec.
PC Card hardware and Dashboard software allow a notebook PC to connect to Vodafone's 3G data network, providing near-broadband Internet connectivity with coverage concentrated in major UK towns and cities; where 3G is not available, a slower GPRS connection is used
Maximum download speed of 384Kbps (contended service, with actual performance dependent on the number of cell users)
Straightforward installation and setup; Dashboard application provides one-stop interface to datacard features
Card price from £199 to free depending on tariff; monthly charge from £11.75 (5MB tariff) to £53 (1GB tariff); beyond-tariff data costs from £2.35 per MB to zero; international roaming incurs extra charges
Vodafone's Mobile Connect 3G/GPRS datacard provides notebook PC users with near-broadband wide-area connectivity via a third-generation (3G) cellular network. It comprises a Type II PC Card with a SIM slot, CD-based installation software and a detachable aerial that plugs into the card.
Vodafone’s 3G data service supports a maximum download speed of 384 kilobits per second (Kbps), or 48KB of data per second, and testing by ZDNet UK regularly achieved speeds of around 264Kbps (33KB/s, or around 2MB a minute). Like DSL, 3G is a contended service, so bandwidth is shared between the various 3G users in each cell. Coverage is centred on major cities, and where a 3G link is not available the connection falls back to dial-up-modem-speed GPRS.
It's worth noting that a 3G datacard is currently an expensive mobile connectivity solution; also, users have reported issues with notebook compatibility, technical support, 3G coverage and 3G/GPRS handover.
Good platform flexibility (supports landscape screens and QWERTY keyboards) and wireless connectivity options (including 3G); persistent memory storage; bundled Mobile versions of MS Office software; hard drive and USB 2.0 support
Requires ARM-based CPU, 32MB Flash ROM, 64MB SDRAM; support for persistent storage boosts battery life
Windows Mobile 5.0 has the look and feel of desktop Windows, and should be familiar to most users; it comes with 3 handwriting recognition choices, keyboard support, soft-key integration and virtual input area to maximise screen space
OS is bundled with hardware (no devices released yet)
Released in May but yet to appear in any shipping devices, Windows Mobile 5.0 is designed to provide handheld and smartphone manufacturers with a more solid platform on which to build their devices. Hardware manufacturers will be able to create devices in many different form factors, incorporating QWERTY keyboards, landscape display orientation and soft-key integration. There is also support in version 5.0 for a wider range of wireless technologies, such as 3G and Wi-Fi for smartphones, plus improved Bluetooth support.
Windows Mobile 5.0 now has built-in support for persistent storage, so that when the battery drains completely, your data remains intact. This means that you can expect longer battery life, as the device won't have to allocate any power to maintain the information stored on it.
Popular Microsoft Office applications such as Word and Excel are bundled as Mobile versions: Word Mobile now supports tables, lists and embedded images, while Excel Mobile allows you to create charts and graphs. There's also PowerPoint Mobile, which allows you to view Presentations (but not edit them). Outlook Mobile provides access to corporate and POP email, and now lets you access Hotmail and MSN in-boxes too.
Supports a range of form factors with screen sizes up to 320 by 480 pixels; wireless connectivity support includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GSM/GPRS; persistent memory storage, hard drive and USB 2.0 support; bundled PIM/productivity applications; syncs with Macs out of the box
Requires ARM-based CPU, 4MB Flash ROM, 1MB SDRAM; support for persistent storage boosts battery life in some models
The Palm OS interface set the standard in the handheld arena, and remains highly intuitive; Graffiti 2.0 handwriting recognition, with virtual input area on some models to maximise screen space
OS is bundled with hardware (prices vary)
Palm OS 5.x, also known as Palm OS Garnet, is the version found on all current Palm OS devices. Version 6.1 (a.k.a. Cobalt) has yet to appear in any products. Available in handhelds and smartphones with screen sizes ranging from the original 160 by 160 pixels to 320 by 480, Palm OS 5.x supports both pen and keyboard input, persistent storage in recent models and – in the Palm LifeDrive – hard disks.
The core bundle of applications includes standard PIM tools and the HotSync synchronisation client (which supports Macs as well as Windows systems); Palm (formerly PalmOne) -- by far the biggest Palm OS licensee -- also includes the VersaMail email client and DataViz Documents To Go, which lets you work with Microsoft Office files on your handheld.
Palm has recently licensed Microsoft's ActiveSync technology, allowing future models to leverage new features in Exchange Server 2003 SP2 that will deliver features like push email, device passwords, and over-the-air provisioning and data wiping.
Based on Intel's latest Sonoma platform, the 1.45kg ThinkPad X41 comes with excellent ThinkVantage data protection and security features, plus battery options that allow for all-day computing; Windows XP Professional is loaded as standard
1.5GHz low-voltage Pentium M processor with 512MB RAM, integrated Intel graphics and 4,200rpm 60GB hard disk
As well as the legendary ThinkPad keyboard, the X41 comes with a rich set of accessible ThinkVantage security and data protection features, including the Active Protection System for the hard disk
£1,520 (ex. VAT) with optional X4 UltraBase dock and 8-cell battery
Coming from a long line ThinkPad X-series notebooks, the X41 delivers an excellent combination of performance, battery life and features. It's an ideal notebook for business travellers, offering dependable, secure computing in a small, elegant case.
The diminutive ThinkPad X41 includes many of the creature comforts of bigger systems, including a keyboard with full-size keys and 2mm of depth. Basic connections include external VGA monitor, audio and two USB 2.0 ports. As well as a 56Kbps modem and Gigabit Ethernet, the X41 has SD and PC Card slots, while an Intel 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi card allows it to connect with a variety of wireless LANs. The optional X4 UltraBase Dock (£128 ex. VAT) adds a swappable bay for an optical drive, a second hard drive or an extra battery pack, as well as three USB 2.0, parallel, serial and PS/2 connectors and a pair of speakers.
Designed for corporate users, the ThinkPad X41 also offers some of the best data protection and security features available in a notebook. It has a dedicated internal security chip that can block access and encrypt key data. It also features a fingerprint scanner that can not only assure a user's identity for the corporate network log-on routine, but also handle passwords for applications.
The system comes with Windows XP Professional, as well as a phalanx of ThinkVantage utilities for security, online connections, keyboard customisation and data backup. The anachronous (given that IBM no longer owns the ThinkPad line) Access IBM button above the keyboard connects the system with Lenovo's help desk or contacts your own company's support site (when you configure it to do so).
Fitted with the optional 8-cell battery, the X41 delivered an excellent 4 hours and 49 minutes of battery life in ZDNet UK's battery rundown test. A Tablet PC version of the ThinkPad X41 is also available.
Combining a Wi-Fi- and Bluetooth-equipped Windows Mobile handheld, a tri-band GSM/GPRS phone and a 1.3 megapixel camera, the xda IIi is a well-specified travelling companion
520MHz Intel PXA 272 processor, 128MB RAM, 60MB of Flash memory available from the 128MB ROM
This is not the lightest or most compact handheld at 200g with a 3.5in. 240-by-320 pixel screen, but Windows Mobile 2003 SE offers a familiar graphical interface for most users
£179.99 (inc. VAT) with monthly O2 contract
O2's xda IIi is the fourth device in a range that stretches back to the xda, the first Pocket PC/phone combo to ship in the UK. The original design proved so successful that little has changed bar the specification, which is now impressive. Both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are built in, joining the tri-band GSM/GPRS phone to give an excellent array of personal-, local- and wide-area connectivity. There's plenty of computing power in the shape of a 520MHz Intel Xcale PXA 272 CPU backed up by 128MB of RAM. There's 128MB of Flash ROM too, of which around 60MB is available for storing user data.
The operating system is Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC Second Edition, Phone Edition, which as well as supporting telephony features allows the 3.5in. screen to be viewed in either portrait or landscape mode – the latter is useful when viewing spreadsheets in Pocket Excel, for example.
Not all business users will need it, but the built-in camera has a resolution of 1.3 megapixels, and can shoot stills at up to 960 by 1,280 pixels or video at up to 240 by 320 pixels.
ZDNet UK's battery rundown test reported a total of 4 hours and 38 minutes' continuous operation with the telephony features switched off.
The Symbian OS 7-based P910i uses the UIQ interface and with its large screen, flip-down keyboard, VGA camera, 64MB of RAM, PC synchronisation and strong application bundle, is one of the best-specified GSM/GPRS smartphones available
13 hours talk time, 400 hours standby; 64MB RAM
At 155g this is a bulky phone, but it has a large 208-by-320-pixel touchscreen, a removable flip-down keypad that reveals a small QWERTY keyboard and a five-way jog dial, which together provide a range of navigation and input methods
£429.99 (inc. VAT)
The chunky 155g P910i is a Symbian OS 7-based smartphone with an 18-bit 208-by-320-pixel touchscreen and a removable flip-down keypad with a tiny QWERTY keyboard on its reverse side. With the 'flip' removed, you can use an on-screen keyboard or handwriting recognition for text entry. It has 64MB of RAM, and there's a Memory Stick Duo slot for further expansion. Bluetooth is built in, but wireless connectivity doesn't stretch to Wi-Fi.
The P910i caters well for corporate users, providing support for a number of push email solutions, as well as secure Internet connections. In addition to PIM tools and the Opera Web browser, the software bundle includes Quickword and Quicksheet, which allow you to create and edit Microsoft Word and Excel documents. There's also a PDF viewer, PDF+.
Scalable infrastructure for delivering business applications to a variety of handheld and smartphone platforms with real-time or intermittent Internet access
Server component runs on AIX, Solaris and Windows (2000, 2003); client platforms include Windows Mobile 2003 SE, Palm OS, Symbian OS and RIM devices
Relatively straightforward to install and configure, on both server and clients
Prices vary depending on customer requirements
WorkPlace Everyplace Access (WEA) is a Java-based client/server middleware platform that allows business applications and data to be delivered to a variety of mobile devices with real-time or intermittent Internet access. As well as PIM and email synchronisation with IBM/Lotus Domino or Microsoft Exchange servers, WEA supports mobile instant messaging, includes DB2 Everyplace for mobile access to JDBC-compliant databases, and can access third-party enterprise applications such as Siebel, SAP and PeopleSoft.
WEA includes a rich set of development tools for creating custom applications and manages operations like mobile device configuration, software distribution and inventory.
A distributed, scalable, multipurpose Unix communications platform that supports optimised, secure client data access over a wide range of international wireless network technologies, as well as wired LANs and WANs
Runs on AIX and Solaris server platforms and includes a number of installable components for managing wireless connections, as well as a wireless client; LDAP directory and ODBC-compliant relational database required on server
Java management interface can be unwieldy
Prices vary depending on customer requirements
A major concern for IT managers when extending business applications to a mobile workforce is security. This concern is addressed by WebSphere Everyplace Connection Manager (WECM), which provides a mobile VPN that encrypts data over potentially insecure wireless LAN and WAN connections.
Equally importantly, WECM supports seamless cross-network roaming, which allows mobile users to dynamically switch network connections without interrupting applications, thereby increasing their productivity. To this end, it integrates an extensive list of standard IP and non-IP wireless bearer networks, server hardware, device OSs and mobile security protocols. Compression and other network optimisations also help to boost user productivity and lower network costs.
Integrates with Microsoft Exchange Server to deliver secure push email and PIM data to wireless-connected Windows Mobile and Palm OS devices
Server component runs on Windows (2000, 2003) and integrates with Microsoft Exchange Server; client platforms are Windows Mobile (Pocket PC and Smartphone) and Palm OS
Reasonably straightforward to install and configure, with role-based administration and OTA software management; hosted version available; familiar Outlook-like interface on client devices
£195 per client per year
GoodLink Wireless Messaging, now at version 4.5, delivers push email and PIM data from Microsoft Exchange to wireless-connected (via Wi-Fi or GPRS) Windows Mobile and Palm OS devices. Symbian OS support is promised for the future, too.
For IT managers, features like over-the-air (OTA) provisioning and software management, remote erasure of PIM data and role-based administration are welcome. Users benefit from a familiar Outlook-like interface on client devices, the ability to view and edit attachments in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF format, and an offline working mode.
A free add-on, GoodLink Forms, allows IT support to design information request forms that can be sent from a mobile device to request particular types of information from corporate servers -- a useful facility when working offline.
Integrates with Microsoft Exchange Server and IBM/Lotus Domino to deliver secure push email and PIM data to wireless-connected BlackBerry devices, and to other platforms via BlackBerry Built-In and BlackBerry Connect
Server component runs on Windows (2000, 2003) and integrates with Microsoft Exchange (5.5 SP4, 2003, 2000 SP2) and IBM/Lotus Domino (6.5, 6.0.1 CF2, 5.03 or later); the client base is primarily proprietary BlackBerry devices, but third-party platforms are also supported
Setup wizard automates server installation and configuration, although some manual tweaks may be required; straightforward to use on client devices
£2,800 with 20 client licences
BlackBerry Enterprise Server, now at version 4.0, delivers push email and PIM data from Microsoft Exchange and IBM/Lotus Domino to wireless-connected BlackBerry devices. Third-party platform support is provided under RIM's licensing schemes -- BlackBerry Built-In (currently available only on the Siemens SK65 smartphone) and BlackBerry Connect (available on the Nokia 6810/6820 and O2 xda II).
BlackBerry Connect is currently only available on Windows Mobile and Symbian OS devices, but support on the Palm OS platform is in the pipeline.
Like its chief rival, GoodLink Wireless Messaging, BlackBerry Enterprise Server supports role-based administration, and delivers software and critical updates over the air; end-to-end security is provided, and lost or stolen devices can have all their data wiped remotely. Users can preview and download attachments in Microsoft Word, Excel, PDF and some picture formats.
As well as integrating with email/groupware servers, BlackBerry Enterprise Server can provide links to enterprise applications and data stores via the Mobile Data Service, turning it from a wireless email gateway into a mobile application gateway.