Bob Leibowitz, marketing director of mobile computing products with Motorola's Information Systems Group, says he believes there will be a second coming of PDAs (personal digital assistants) in the next 18 months. Mr Leibowitz, in Hong Kong last week to launch a series of PC Card-based modems and LAN connectors, said new communications functions built into PDAs and the data facilities being merged with mobile phone and paging technology would revitalise the PDA market. Three years ago, the PDA was billed as the next big thing in information technology, with product releases from Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Psion and Sharp, as well as the Taiwan and Hong Kong hand-held device manufacturers, which turned out dozens of organisers, dictionaries and similar machines that could handle double-byte characters. But PDAs faltered because of poor communications options, with the market dissolving to become a pure diary or organiser replacement. There were exceptions in some obscure vertical applications where particular user groups invested time and money to overcome the hurdle of integration with communications networks. Motorola's ISG has released new PC Card devices designed for mobile computing - which can send broadcast messages to alphanumeric pagers using Motorola's Messaging Partner software. The card and software can also send a paging message from a PC via a compatible pager to other subscribers. 'GSM [global system for mobiles] connectivity is also fast becoming a checkbox item for many people,' Mr Leibowitz said. 'We see GSM as the most pervasive mobile phone technology and with a GSM-compatible PC Card there's some opportunities for creative distribution - whether it be with a notebook computer or with a mobile phone.' Mr Leibowitz said the 'memory' part of the Personal Computer Memory Card International Association (PCMCIA) standard was almost redundant because the market for PC Cards was predominantly for modem or Ethernet connectivity. He said modems accounted for more than half of the PC Cards that were matched with notebook computers, while LAN interface cards were perhaps the next biggest segment. A combination, or multifunction card, was a growing product segment because it removed the configuration complexity for different connection procedures and saved space in notebook computers that carried just a single PC card slot. Last week, Motorola unveiled its Mariner and Montana PC Cards, as well as an enhanced security card, SecurID. Mr Leibowitz, who was recruited to Motorola's ISG after serving with Sharp Electronics and flash memory specialist Sandisk (formerly Sundisk), said the Mariner and Montana cards united wireline and wireless access through the PC Card interface. He explained that Motorola was a relatively new player in the modem/LAN card connector field, which includes Xircom, 3Com, Hayes and the Megahertz division of USRobotics as the main players. 'We OEM'd a product to get into the market initially but we've since developed our own technology,' Mr Leibowitz said. 'The next stage is some fairly sophisticated IC (integrated circuit) integration and some applications for 32-bit Cardbus technology.' Ron Waeghe-vice-president and general manager of Motorola's ISG in Asia-Pacific, said his firm's experience with data communications dated back to 1962. A series of acquisitions in the 1970s and 80s helped unite a number of data communications product and software groups under the Motorola banner. Mr Waeghe said the ISG was more tightly integrated in order to respond to market changes following the PC modem boom in the 1990s.