Don’t you hate it when you drop your computer off the inner tube and into the pool?

Panasonic Canada Inc. has announced the Toughbook CF-U1 PC, a water-resistant handheld PC that runs on Windows XP and Vista.

In addition to being dust-resistant, Panasonic claims the screen on this Toughbook is visible in direct sunlight with a lo-power, white LED backlight.

The manufacturer is marketing the device to insurance adjusters, building inspectors, police departments and anyone working in an environment that could potentially damage conventional PCs, such as warehouses, construction sites and oil refineries. The press release does not specifically mention sunbathers as target users.

Panasonic touts its Wi-Fi card as “Draft-n” compliant, which means it meets a standard that does not yet exist. So it does have wireless connectivity, and if you cannot get it to connect to your access point, you can vent your anger by dropping it on the floor. Then again, that might be a bad idea, though Panasonic says this gizmo is protected from drops of up to four feet.

It will be available this fall in Canada for $2,399.

Motorola Inc.’s Z6w, a GSM phone, is available through Fido for $350 without a contract and $60 with a three-year contract.

Though Fido targets mainly the consumer market, this handset could help companies save money by connecting through Wi-Fi networks instead of always using the cellular network. It can connect to Wi-Fi using both the 802.11b and 802.11g standards, plus it has 420 minutes of talk time. These minutes won’t actually be billed to your cellular plan, provided you use them within range of a Fido UNO router, which connects your handset to a high-speed Internet gateway. If you’re using it on the road, then yes, you will pay for air time.

The Motorola Z6w also includes other features which have pretty much become standard on wireless handsets, such as a camera, alarm clock and calculator.

Software developers wanting to take advantage of voice and data convergence may be interested in Oracle Corp.’s Communications Services Gatekeeper 4.0, which combines Web development, call control and messaging.

The software, formerly known as BEA WebLogic Network Gatekeeper, includes policy customization tools, which are designed to let network operators enforce policies from one location.

It also supports Java Enterprise Edition and Session Initiation Protocol.

The software is part of its Communications Service Delivery Portfolio, and Oracle says this can also be combined with its billing and customer relationship management software.

If this actually helps companies save money on their phone and Internet bills, this software could be promising.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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