After hurricane Iniki whipped into Hawaii in 1992, hotel-supply clients on hard-hit Kauai summoned Bristol & Associates, a project-management consultancy in Palo Alto, Calif., to help rally their businesses. Bristol's problem: Kauai's electricity and land-line telephones were wiped out, but the consulting firm's operations would require shuttling time-sensitive information between Kauai and the main island.
Founder Philip Bristol sought the counsel of Skyway Cellular, a portable-electronics dealer in San Jose. Skyway president Michael F. Merrill augmented Bristol's Macintosh PowerBook computer (street price: $1,500) with a Motorola MicroTac Lite hand-held cellular phone ($500) with data interface ($350), a Global Village Gold internal high-speed fax/modem ($400), and a three-pound GCC WriteMove II high-resolution printer ($300). Bristol hooked them together, and "sure enough, we got through to disaster-coordination centers, sent and received faxes, relayed data files, and otherwise conducted normal business."
The experience inspired Merrill to broaden Skyway's product line to include palmtops, wireless electronic mail, pagers, and even geographic-position finders. Skyway now claims to be the country's first and only dealer (as of February) to offer a complete range of wireless equipment under one roof. The experience likewise excited Bristol, who now chooses restaurants over offices as settings for serious discussions with clients. If additional data are needed, he downloads the information at the table from his main-office desktop via Apple Remote Access software ($180).
As priced by Skyway, here are some leading battery-powered connections:
AT&T EO Personal Communicator ($2,250 for 8 megabytes of RAM, a 20-megabyte hard disk, and a cellular interface): Notebook-size combination phone, fax/modem, electronic-mail sender/receiver, and pen-based personal organizer.
PowerTek CMI-3000 Cellular Data Link ($1,400): Combination three-watt phone and high-speed cellular data modem that can connect to conventional land-line phone service as well.
Motorola EMBARC Wireless Messaging with News-Stream or NewsCard receiver ($400 for hardware; $15 a month for basic service): Plug-in hardware that provides for satellite-linked nationwide receive-only E-mail delivery to notebooks and the like.
RadioMail (basic fee is $89 a month): A still-evolving packet-switching technology that sends and receives E-mail over public data networks. Automatic operation does away with the "roaming" charges typical of cellular technology and eliminates dial-up procedures. Requires hardware like that built into the Hewlett-Packard palmtop ($995), or a separate Mobitex-type radio modem ($750).
For information on wireless products, call Skyway at 408-366-5960.* * *