Symbol, Socket Bring Wi-Fi to PDAs

Under terms of a new agreement announced today, Socket Communications (Nasdaq:SCKT) (PSE:SOK) will be selling new products using technology from Symbol Technologies (NYSE:SBL) to its distribution partners in retail and e-commerce. The products will initially include a Compact Flash 802.11b card suitable for use in Pocket PC/Windows CE personal digital assistants, as well as mobile bar-code scanning products.

“It’s a formalization of a relation ship we’ve had for a couple of years,” says Peter Phillips, senior director of marketing, Socket Communications.

Socket’s specialty has long been mobile solutions, starting with PC Cards for notebooks. They now primarily concentrate on Compact Flash adapters for PDAs. They’ve had a working relationship with Symbol for several years on the bar-code scanning side.

“What this announcement does is take it to the next level,” says Phillips. “Symbol realized they’re strong in the vertical and integrator markets with their scanner products and terminals… they have a good structure to address that segment of the market. But they didn’t have broad distribution to ecommerce and retailers.

“Our goal is not to get Symbol’s brand name out there… that process is not an easy one and it takes time and energy… In the case of the WLAN, the typical customer might not know there’s symbol technology inside.”

Socket will develop and sell wireless LAN products as well as scanning products using Symbol technology. By focusing on Compact Flash enabled devices, they are limited mostly to Pocket PC units, as most Palm-OS based units have proprietary slots like Springboard (from Visor) or the Secure Digital Input/Output (SDIO) slot in some newer Palm models. Someday, according to Phillips, Socket may eventually offer devices for SDIO slots under this deal as devices get smaller.

Eric Griffith is the managing editor of 802.11 Planet.

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