Size, security, and network-access costs are crucial to the future of handheld devices, Handspring chairman and chief product officer Jeff Hawkins told Comdex yesterday.

"When you make things smaller they get better," said Hawkins, a founder of leading handheld maker Palm. Hawkins also co-founded Handspring, a Palm OS licensee. Pointing to Handspring's recently announced Treo - a combination phone and PDA (personal digital assistant) - as an example of his smaller-is-better credo, Hawkins showed how address books and Web pages can be viewed and handily used on small-screen devices.

Security concern However, one of the not-so-obvious aspects of the increasing widespread "mobile Internet" is security, Hawkins said. Handheld communication devices are on all the time, he said, "and we've never tested the security of the cell networks".

Being constantly connected to a carrier that is then connected to the Internet is a recipe for trouble, he said.

"The opportunities for creating havoc here are very large."

While industry insiders have accepted that wireless devices will become ubiquitous, Hawkins goes one step further. Just as per-minute charges have dropped for land lines, they will also rapidly drop for mobile users, he said

Once wireless infrastructure has been created, he noted, "the cost of handling one more wireless call is essentially zero".

Handspring also unveiled efforts to enlist vendors of handheld and wireless software to adapt to the company's Visor PDA and recently released Treo Communicator. These partners will work with Handspring to set up joint marketing efforts and ensure their products work together to solve a specific customer problem.