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June 27, 2000
Palm announces yet another expansion port

Into the mix of expansion options for Palm OS computers, some already here, and some on the way, Palm today announced their plan to add SD (Secure Digital). The first announcement declares that the OS will support the standard, and the second says that the SD standard will be integrated into future Palm hardware products. This will be the fourth expansion slot standard, or fifth, if you include the axxPAC that allows the use of SmartMedia cards with a Palm IIIx. The others are Handspring's Visor with the Springboard slot, TRGpro's Compact Flash slot, and the not-yet-released Sony device running the Palm OS that will include their Memory Stick technology.

SD offers the smallest overall size, and excellent encryption. Personally, I'm not fond of memory cards smaller than CompactFlash; any smaller than CF is far too easily misplaced. As for confusing alliances, as recently as last November, Palm's press releases made it sound like the Sony Memory Stick would be the expansion included in future Palm products. While Palm's success thus far has been based largely on an open programming architecture, another part of its success has been a simple hardware specification. This new direction, with multiple manufacturers, multiple connectors, multiple processors, and now multiple storage/expansion options could make the world of Palm more complicated than the world of Windows CE/Pocket PC. Their momentum will hopefully help carry them through; whereas early CE devices made it tough for third party manufacturers to make peripherals for such a small market fractured by many proprietary connectivity options, Palm's sheer mass could make it worthwhile for peripherals manufacturers to create products that will fit the various connector and expansion options that seem to be proliferating. Despite all the disparate connectors and expansion, there's still IrDA to keep the units talking. Though that's relatively slow, the upcoming release of Bluetooth could render all worries about storage and expansion compatibilty moot, since most files can easily be copied from machine to machine wirelessly. That is, until companies start releasing digital content for distribution on these competing standards, or try to come out with something like a modem that is cross-platform compatible. While the former should be easily done with software tweaks, the latter clearly won't be possible.

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