Busy school leaders on the go received some good news from the wireless industry’s annual trade show in New Orleans Feb. 8: A flurry of industry alliances is expected to hasten the day when consumers can use their mobile phones and portable computers to check their eMail, navigate the internet, and access data from their desktop PCs.

Motorola Corp., the big mobile-phone maker, and Cisco Systems Inc., the dominant maker of computer-networking equipment, announced they would create a set of common technical standards to enable equipment used by different wireless systems to work together easily.

The standards, due out in May, should make it easier for wireless network operators to offer services such as eMail and voice mail without worries about compatibility. The companies said they will spend $1 billion during five years in the effort, which should result in new products in a few years.

The increased availability of go-anywhere web access through “smart phones,” laptops, and handheld computers could help boost internet usage from about a fifth of the U.S. population to more than a third by 2002, analysts say.

About 2.5 million American households are expected to have internet-ready phones by that time, estimates Jupiter Communications LLC, a New York-based research firm.

On-the-fly communications between mobile phones and PCs also could be a boon to schools, where management and technology staff often shuffle from crisis to crisis.

Some manufacturers already sell phones that let people exchange eMail and offer limited online access.

But they don’t always work well, especially for people traveling long distances, and they can be expensive. Nokia’s 9000 series mobile phone, which features a big screen that flips up, sells for $700 and up.

However, competition is pushing prices down.

Innovative Global Solution Inc., for example, unveiled a smart phone expected to cost less than $300. The NeoPoint 1000 lets people hook into the internet, use a modem, send faxes, and exchange eMail.

Motorola Corp.

http://www.mot.com

Cisco Systems Inc.

http://www.cisco.com

Innovative Global Solution Inc.

http://www.igsolution.com