Director of Technical Services, Baka Industries Inc.
After waiting more than a year and a half, PowerBook Duo owners now have a third-party modem option, the PowerPort/Mercury for the PowerBook Duo from Global Village Communication. The new modem fills in the top of Global Village's product lineup, offering 19,200 bps data communications and 14,400 bps send and receive fax capabilities.
At a suggested retail price of $399, the PowerPort/Mercury for the Duo will probably be a bit more expensive than Apple's Express Modem, the only competing product available at this time. Early reliability problems with the Duo Express Modem (most of which have reportedly been fixed through software updates) and Apple's less-functional fax software make the extra expense worthwhile for serious telecommunicators.
Even though Apple's 1991 introduction of the original PowerBook model was followed by a string of third-party modem offerings, none of these developers stepped forward with a model for the Duo 210 and 230 when they arrived about a year later. Manufacturers cited difficulties in getting hardware and software specifications from Apple. Since the Duo design incorporated more circuitry in less space, Apple was not able to use the same modem design they'd created for the 100-series PowerBooks. Apple claimed delays in producing appropriate developer documentation as the reason third parties were not able to develop their own modems for the Duos.
In the meantime, Global Village offered a special version of its GlobalFax software for use with the Duo Express Modem. This served to tide over impatient Duo owners who really wanted a Global Village modem. The company reportedly plans a special reduced-price offer for owners of GlobalFax who wish to purchase a PowerPort/Mercury for their Duo, but details were not available at press time.
One important advance in Global Village's modem design is of course the faster data throughput. The "v.32terbo" modem's 19,200 bps performance is one third faster in raw data speeds, and the fact that many data transfer protocols have a finite overhead means that for most users, the perceived increase in speed will be even larger.
Like the other Mercury models in Global Village's TelePort and PowerPort families, the new PowerPort/Mercury for the PowerBook Duo includes the powerful and flexible GlobalFax software for sending and receiving faxes, as well as GlobalFax OCR for converting received faxes into editable text or word processor files. The package also includes Dave Alverson's popular ZTerm terminal emulation shareware program, which Global Village buyers need not purchase separately.
Global Village says that industry estimates place the installed base of modem-less PowerBook Duos at over 50,000 in the U.S. alone, and thousands more Duos are sold each month. If this is accurate, the first batch of new modems may vanish quickly, but Global Village hopes production will catch up with demand before too long.
Is there anything to talk to at 19,200 bps? You bet - starting with Global Village's OneWorld Remote Access servers, which incorporate internal PowerPort/Mercury modems to provide performance that feels considerably faster than 14,400 bps ARA service. No commercial online services like America Online and eWorld have 19,200 bps access lines yet, but many local bulletin boards do. SLIP and PPP protocols, providing dialup Internet access, also feel much smoother at 19,200 bps than at 14,400.
Certainly Global Village's new modem makes the Duo itself a more viable alternative to the all-in-one PowerBook 100 and 500 families. The much lighter Duo models are attractive to users who want the lightest possible notebook computer, and who don't need a floppy drive available at all times. (Many PowerBook owners find the floppy drive less critical than they expected it to be.) Of course, the new 500 series PowerBooks have their own advantages, such as the Trackpad pointing device with no moving parts, and the dual battery compartments.
Global Village -- 800/736-4821 -- 415/390-8200
415/390-8282 (fax) -- <email@example.com>
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