IT Management
Who really needs a PDA?


Reports show PDA sales are either increasing or falling. Meanwhile,
email devices and smartphones are advancing. Tony Westbrook
explains what this means for IT support.

IT Management

Benjamin Disraeli is supposed to have coined the phrase: “There are
three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics.” This has never
seemed truer than when trying to judge sales of IT kit.

mobile devices: it has been common wisdom that sales of PDAs were
dropping.A recent report from analyst Gartner estimated a fall in PDA
sales of five percent in the first quarter of this year. Then scanning
the news, I spotted another research organisation and another story.
This said that in Europe PDA sales might actually be increasing. But not
as fast as smartphone sales apparently. So what is really going on?
Well firstly, measurement is difficult when two related device types
converge.When is a phone not a phone? When is a PDA not a PDA?

And when are they neither but a smartphone instead? Devices that include
a phone are probably becoming more attractive as GPRS and 3G advance.And
in some territories the retail system is especially well developed to
sell these high-value products thanks to incentives offered by the

The data probably indicates that sales of such devices
are not falling, but buyers are looking for more functionality and maybe
integration of two previous devices as they upgrade.

Also, phone
makers are waking up to the fact that business users need full PDA-type
functionality on a smartphone. Todays smartphones either use a GPRS link
(O2s XDA or PalmOnes Treo) or in a few cases a theoretically faster 3G
link (such as the Symbian-powered Motorola A925).Well doubtless see more
and better 3G devices as other networks finally get 3G running this year.

But today the hardware with the phone varies wildly everything from very
focused and limited (RIMs BlackBerry) to very vague but flexible (XDA
II). Thats because the other variable in these devices is the processor
and operating system.

O2s XDA II is interesting because it uses
Microsofts Windows-powered Pocket PC platform. This makes it familiar
and versatile (good) for a wide range of applications developed by third
parties, but potentially confusing to use (bad).

At the other end
of the scale the BlackBerry uses its own operating system and is more
focused on adding basic PDA features and easy email to a phone package.

As a result, expansion beyond core features is very limited. In between sit
Palm-based products, which are more mobile-friendly in terms of power
consumption, are still flexible, and thanks to the Palms history are
available with a wide range of third-party software.

What suits
particular firms will depend on their needs. Smartphones will become as
prevalent as the mobile phone is today. Although from a development
point of view the Pocket PC phone is probably the most flexible option,
it brings many more security issues than, say, a well integrated
email-only BlackBerry.

But what is clear is that every user
currently carrying a company mobile phone is likely to become the IT
departments responsibility as voice phones get replaced with remote
email and web-surfing smartphones of some kind.Whatever the statistics,
thats the reality you should plan for right now.