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PDAs, Wireless Network Tailored for Forum

Is there any doubt now that wireless networking isn't gaining popularity? Accenture Compaq Computer Corp. and Microsoft Corp. Wednesday said they have prepared more than 2,000 custom personal digital assistants (PDAs) for World Economic Forum attendees, along with a corresponding wireless network.

Meeting attendees will be able to stay connected with Compaq iPAQ Pocket PCs and kiosks as part of a wireless network running throughout the center. This is necessary because the sessions will be held in multiple tracks, so those sitting in on one session will be able to catch streaming video highlights of other sessions.

So, how are Microsoft, Compaq and Accenture working together on this event? The special iPAQs, called "Davos Companions" within the confines of the event, are equipped with Microsoft Windows Pocket PC software using Accenture applications.

The handhelds are preloaded with information about the WEF meeting and updated for personalization and changes. These are updated and supported by a wireless network powered by Compaq ProLiant servers and Compaq wireless access points. The network includes some 50 kiosks, designed and built by Accenture, consisting of Compaq's Evo desktops, using Microsoft's operating system. Participants can access registrant biographies and photos, personalized agendas, the updated conference program,

"In the global economy, time and place for business or personal interaction are no longer relevant. Workers and consumers are globally dispersed, often mobile, and yet are able to stay connected through the unwired Internet," said Michael Capellas, chairman and chief executive officer of Compaq. "They can buy, sell, learn, communicate or play online -- anytime, anywhere."

Capellas would have a point about the importance of remote capability, if a newly-released study by Cahners In-Stat/MDR is on target. The research division said in a report Wednesday that there are more than more than 78 million remote and mobile workers in the U.S. today.

"Recent advances in both wired and wireless Internet access solutions have spurred faster growth of this population in the last couple of years, with hosted applications promising to open up new frontiers in the future," says Kneko Burney, a director with In-Stat/MDR. "Those surveyed viewed Internet-accessible applications quite positively, seeing them as potentially convenient while out of the office."

Traditionally held in Davos, Switzerland, WEF organizers decided to show grit and unity by hosting it in New York City this year, in light of September 11. The conference, with the fitting theme of "Leadership in Fragile Times: A Vision for a Shared Future," will run Jan. 31 through Feb. 4 at The Waldorf-Astoria.

"The 2002 annual meeting is far more complex than ever because of the vital issues to be discussed, and will require greater information exchange and coordination than before," commented Andre Schneider, director of resources and knowledge management at the World Economic Forum.