Author: Yogi Schulz

Personal Digital Assistants (PDA’s) from various manufacturers are competing for space in your pocket. Each year these manufacturers are delivering more PDA models with improved ease-of-use and added functionality at lower prices. As a result, we’re buying more PDA’s. Gartner reports that worldwide PDA shipments increased 6.6 percent to 12.3 million in 2004 compared with 2003.

Common examples of PDA’s are the Dell Axim, the HP iPAQ, the Palm Treo and the RIM Blackberry. Most PDA’s use an operating system such as Windows CE from Microsoft, Palm OS from Palm One or RIM OS from RIM.

Here’s a quick update on the key advantages and drawbacks for each category of PDA together with a preview of likely future product developments.

“The PDA market has shifted from unconnected organizers to a market in which 44 percent of the devices shipped in 2004 offered integrated wireless connectivity,” says Todd Kort, principal analyst in Gartner’s Computing Platforms Worldwide group. Gartner tracks developments and projects trends in computing and electronics.

The standard applications available on PDA’s are e-mail, cell phone, personal schedule, SMS messaging, as well as access to the Internet and to Intranet-based applications. All these PDA’s offer smooth synchronization with Outlook on a desktop PC through a cradle.


The Treo 650, in addition to the standard applications, includes an MP3 audio player and a digital camera for pictures and short videos.

Mr. Frank Stanford, CEO of WellPoint Systems Inc. an oil & gas software supplier, depends heavily on his Treo. “I traded in my Blackberry for the Treo because it was much easier to learn and its contact and calendar functions are superior to the Blackberry. The Blackberry’s edge in e-mail functionality was not sufficient to offset the Treo’s superiority in other applications.”

The Treo can be operated almost entirely by the central joystick. Text can be entered either through the small keyboard or through the stylus.

The richest library of specialty applications is available for Palm One-based PDA’s. However, Palm One is continuing to lose ground to Pocket PC for enterprise applications. This trend is due to the dominance of Windows in most organizations.


The Blackberry models from RIM are the undisputed e-mail champs. That’s both the good news and the bad news.

Mr. Brian Heninger, President of Heninger Toyota, is an avid Blackberry user. “I like having only one device to carry. I find my Blackberry easy to use and appreciate the continent-wide e-mail coverage that I use during various trips.”

The Blackberry’s SureType keyboard technology includes auto-complete and auto-correct features that make typing much easier and less frustrating. The color screen is of limited value because the individual applications don’t make use of color. The selection of specialty applications is more limited than for the other brands.

Pocket PC

The main attraction of the Pocket PC, from various manufacturers such as HP and Dell, is that simplified versions of the familiar Microsoft programs such as Word, Excel, Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer and Outlook are all loaded and ready to use. Once a few other programs such as pocket TV to view mpeg movies and ipresenter to view PowerPoint presentations are added, the Pocket PC meets almost everyone’s needs.

In addition to Microsoft software, the attraction of the Pocket PC is its larger color screen. The additional memory doesn’t mean much for data storage because the applications require it. While I really like the Microsoft Reader for viewing documents, this software has not built the momentum of Acrobat Reader. The complaints expressed about the Pocket PC are its weight (it’s about 30 grams heavier than the Treo or the Blackberry) and its price (it’s typically about $250.00 more than the Treo or the Blackberry).


In the future I expect PDA’s will continue to improve their handwriting recognition. Some PDA’s will feature higher resolution cameras. I also expect PDA’s will develop the capability to connect to the WiFi network. That feature will lead later to call hand-off to the cell network and back as needed.

I do not expect reductions in size or weight. Rather I expect more memory and faster processors will be crammed into the same approximate size.


If your primary reason for owning a PDA is to communicate via e-mail, then go no further and acquire a Blackberry.

If you value a rich selection of PDA applications with superior ease-of-use and low weight, then the Palm is your best choice.

If you like superior support for Microsoft Office, the larger screen and can handle the small weight increment, then a Pocket PC PDA is for you.


Microsoft – Pocket PC

Pocket PC Manufacturers

Microsoft Reader

Palm One – Treo

Research In Motion (RIM) – Blackberry

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Worldwide PDA market slump continues

By: Robert McMillan
IDG News Service\San Francisco Bureau – 29 Jul 2004

Besieged by competition from mobile telephones and other wireless devices, worldwide shipments of handheld computing devices declined 2.2 per cent to 2.20 million in the second quarter of 2004, down from 2.27 million units during the same quarter in 2003, according to research from industry firm IDC.

The market for handheld devices, also called personal digital assistants (PDAs) has been in decline since 2001, hurt by a general slump in technology purchasing, competition from wireless devices that perform PDA functions, and by a lack of new applications, said David Linsalata, an analyst with IDC, based in Framingham, Mass.

“The handheld of the 1990s is the same as the handheld of the 2000s in that it hasn’t really evolved,” said Linsalata.

In a sign of the slowdown, the third-ranked PDA vendor, Sony Corp. last month decided to exit the market, except in Japan, leaving Hewlett-Packard Co. and PalmOne Inc. with over 65 per cent of the market between them, according to IDC’s numbers.

Sony, which ships the Clie handhelds, saw its market share drop by 33.2 per cent in the last year. The company shipped 172,000 units during the second quarter.

PalmOne had the largest volume of shipments, selling 924,000 devices in the second quarter, down 0.6 per cent from the same period in 2003. Following Sony’s departure, PalmOne remains the only major PalmOS vendor in the market, IDC said.

Hewlett-Packard saw its shipments increase by 39.2 per cent year-over-year, selling 530,000 devices during the quarter.

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