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KELLNER: Musings on mobile availability in Manila

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MANILA, Philippines

Mabuhay, or welcome, is the word one hears all over this bustling city, where gasoline sells for around $2.25 per gallon, and the SM Department Store is offering 10 percent off on a "Barong Filipino," the national dress shirt and one much more amenable to the high humidity here than even a linen suit.

Arriving at the start of a 10-day visit, I learned several things about computing 12 time zones removed from Washington.

First, Wi-Fi is everywhere, sort of: At the Philippines International Conference Center, wireless Internet access is free of charge. However, it seems that we can only access e-mail using Wi-Fi and not do any Internet Web browsing.

Second, high-speed Internet is in place at the Heritage Hotel Manila, where I'm staying. However, expect to pay around U.S. $18 per day for the service, which is rather steep in my view.

Downloads can take some time, and firing up an online service such as Adobe's Buzzword is much slower than in the States. However, once launched and running, Buzzword does just fine.

This begs a question about online applications in general: How good is it to have so-called "cloud computing" when one is traveling and access is slower than at home? Is it not better to carry your applications with you on a computer (or, perhaps, a flash drive) and store them and your data for quick access?

The question is not merely academic, but cuts to the heart of the matter. I'm a fan of such "cloud" applications as Buzzword and G.ho.st, as mentioned here in recent weeks. Google Docs is another worthy contender, especially for its integration with Google's Gmail service.

On the road, it's always interesting to see who's carrying what and how it's being used. The Microsoft Windows platform still dominates, of course; I've only seen a few Apple Inc. notebooks here. But Apple's iPhone is a bit more prominent among users. Indeed, it was a pleasant surprise to see both a first-generation iPhone and the iPhone 3G quickly connect to local wireless networks for both voice and data calls.

Which, in turn, leads one to Skype, the killer Voice-over-Internet-Protocol, or VoIP application of all time. With a few clicks to configure, I was chatting with the office back home as easily as if the people were standing next to me.

Traveling to the other side of the world, of course, takes a bit of time, and in-flight entertainment might not fill the gap. Once again, the iPhone with its media component, and Apple's iTunes can come to the rescue. But on a very long flight, such as the Dulles-to-Tokyo run at just under 14 hours, you need more than the basic battery on the phone or an iPod. Enter the "2-in-1 Charger & Back Up Battery" from i.Sound, a rechargeable, high capacity 1000mAh polymerized lithium-ion battery that the maker says provides up to 30 hours of additional music, 6 hours of video or 3 hours of talk time. It lists for $50 but can be found on Amazon.com for around $46; I used it successfully and happily.

Most of all, I plan to keep it charged for the flight home, back to regular time and fiber-optic Internet.

• E-mail Mark Kellner.

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