Tablets, and PDA gap is closing…
by Vipul Shah
started with Product called PalmPilot by US Robotic, which was then
taken over by 3Com and then later on became Palm.later on Palm business
was broken into two pieces Palm and Palmsource as need to keep PalmOS
development separate from PALM hardware business. Till this separation
happened Palm pda business was competing with its own PalmOS customer
in retail PDA market. Initially Handspring and later on Sony was
stealing show from Palm. Palm was still largest selling PDA and
major force but its grip on market was slipping every day. Sony
was selling Clié pda, an improved PalmOS based products. It was
able to offer many of PalmOS 5 feature during PalmOS 4 days, like
320x320 resolution. After separating PalmOS business from PDA business
again Palm and PalmOS both are on growth path. Today PalmOS PDAs
are made by Sony, Samsung, Garmin, Fossil, and of course Palm. Handspring
decided to merge with Palm few weeks back. Combing all these companies,
PalmOS offers rich and wide variety of products in form of Wrist
watch pda of FOSSIL to GPS navigator from Garmin and Treo range
of PalmOS based mobile phones.
late 90s, Microsoft also realized importance of PDA business. It
made smart move by not entering actual hardware business but it
made and kept on improving Operating System which was WinCE, PocketPC
, PocketPC 2002 and now Windows Mobile 2003. By not competing with
its own hardware making customers, Microsoft attracted wider spectrum
of manufacturers from Dell, HP/Compaq, Sony, Asus, View Sonic, Samsung.
Some of early adapters like Phillips dropped out after dismal performance
of its Velo and Nino units in 1998/99. Today we have makers like
Dell offering sub$300 entry level but fully functional Axim as well
as HP offering top of line iPAQ 5455 model with all bells and whistles
like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and biometric finger print authentication.
of PalmOS 5 and Windows Mobile 2003 are criticized for not having
any major changes in their offerings. I feel this is a sign of product
maturing and becoming worthy of mass usage. This happens when you
don’t see major changes in user interface or functionality because
it works well but you see tweaking under hood like better wireless
capability or security and battery management. Ever since I remember
Nokia phones had same screen interface and that makes changing to
new Nokia phone models every few months child play as there is same
kind of user interface on all phones. In next one year we will see
huge gains in battery life and units will become half its weight
thanks to introduction of OLED which will replace LCD which is bulky
and needs backlight which is major source of drain on batteries.
black and white units cost less then US$150, all sub US$200 pda
are color pda. All sub US$250 can also play mp3 and all costing
more then US$300 sport some kind of wireless connectivity.
In last week
of July Sony announced new UX series of Clié pda. It offers landscape
480x320 screen, full QWERTY keyboard, 0.3 mega pixel camera and
wireless capability in form of Bluetooth an Wi-Fi, and custom chip
capable of 30fps video, all this weighing just 170 gram. With this
bar for rest of industry is raised and now customers also expect
to have all laptop/tabletPC functionality in pdas. In many countries
lugging around laptop weighing 3 to 6kg is more of hassle then status.
Airports all over world make you pass laptops thru X-Ray and then
ask you to switch it on to make sure it is not exploding when powered.
In this process every day hundreds of laptops are left forgotten
in rush at airport X-Ray machines. In India most people travel by
public transport like trains and taxis and it is extremely cumbersome
to lug around laptops in crowded local trains.
So if you don’t
need to do power point presentations, you may not actually need
laptop or tablet PC as pda like Sony Clié UX-50 may be sufficient
to check emails, write letters, work on spreadsheet or browse web.
Apart from it being light weight, it just cost roughly one third
or one forth of what laptops cost. Tablet PCs when being launched
they were touted as something field executives, utility workers
on road and doctors in hospital must have. But which doctor would
like to carry such bulky units around for few hours every day? With
this wireless pdas it would cost less to equip these workers, and
since they have on road and in campus wireless capabilities like
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, it will be enough to enter data and transmit
it or retrieve data for particular job or patient. Best part is,
it fits in pocket.
I was always
a desktop person. I had to use laptops on few occasions in my life
but it was never a satisfying experience. I always liked full big
keyboard of desktop and its big bright screens where cursor is never
lost. When Palm was launched I was early adapter as I saw it as
good way to unshackle myself from Digital Diary which I kept loosing
with data in it. Eventually I moved on from Palm III to Sony Clié
and recently Dell Axim on few weeks loan for me to try out. For
last 5 years I am spending more time on pda then my pc. Reason is
I use PC only to send emails and chat. But I love to read 2 or 3
hours a day, and that happens on my pda. I use my pda’s 98% of time
to use avantgo.com browser to read newspapers and publications from
around world. Every major publication offers its content in pda
friendly version of its site for avantgo users. Till last year only
foreign publications were on it but now you can see even likes of
Indian Express on it. I don’t need to sit in front of PC to do this.
I do this while waiting for train or on train or when I am kept
waiting before appointments. Almost every spare minute I have gets
utilized this way and it keeps me from being irritated when train
is late or someone is late to meet me.
Vipul Shah is
Chartered Accountant, and can be reached at: