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Palm vs. Pocket: which PDA is Right for You?

Personal digital assistants offer everything, from e-mail, word processing and time and billing to reading e-books and playing games. By interfacing with add-on cards, modems or other accessories, you can use your handheld PDA to surf the Internet, access travel and traffic information, trade stocks, take and store digital pictures or pinpoint your exact location via the Global Positioning System.

Unlike other computers, PDAs are lightweight--designed to fit comfortably in a jacket pocket. And since PDAs can be turned on and off instantly, access to information is almost immediate.

Handheld PDAs fall into two primary categories--those that run on the Palm operating system by Palm Inc., and those that run on a specialized version of the Microsoft Windows OS, called Pocket PC.

PALM OS

The Palm Os, first released in 1996, was specifically designed to run on palm-sized devices. Palm OS is known for its simplicity, ease of use, good performance, small memory footprint and low power consumption.

Palm OS-based devices account for more than 70 percent of all handheld PDAs sold, and a network of some 100,000 independent software developers has produced more than 5,000 add-on applications. While Palm did not invent the first handheld PDA, its well-engineered, highly functional OS and handheld units have largely legitimized the PDA market.

Palm's Strengths

* Low cost ($149-$449)

* Design optimized for handheld PDAs.

* Easy to use

* The dominant OS

Palm's Weaknesses

* Supports a maximum 8MB of RAM

* Requires add-on hardware and software for wireless connections (though the Palm VII does not).

* Smaller screen resolution (160 x 160 pixels)

* Poor color (8-bit, 256 colors or 16 shades of gray)

* Voice and MP3 capabilities require add-on hardware

Products

The following companies produce Palm OS-based products:

* Palm (http://www.palm.com)

* Handspring (http://www.handspring.com)

* Sony (http://www.sonystyle.com)

* Symbol (http://www.symbol.com)

* Qualcomm (http://www.kyocera-wireless.com)

* IBM (http://commerce.www.ihm.com)

* Franklin-Covey (http://www.franklincovey.com)

POCKET PC

Microsoft Pocket PC is a specialized version of the Windows OS that has been trimmed down to run on handheld PDAs. Pocket PC is known for its rich color, and multimedia, as well as support for other Microsoft applications, such as Outlook, Word and Excel. Unlike Palm, Microsoft is an OS vendor only and does not directly sell handheld PDAs that run Pocket PC.

Pocket PC's Strengths

* Larger screen resolution (320 x 240 pixels)

* Superior color (16-bit, active matrix, 65,000 colors)

* Voice and MP3 support built in

* Supports up to 32MB of RAM

Pocket PC's Weaknesses

* More expensive than most Palm OS units ($400-$650)

* Speed, size and power consumption are inferior to Palm

* More difficult to use than Palm OS

* Applications and add-ons are limited

Products

The following companies produce PDAs that support Pocket PC:

* Casio (http://www.casio.com)

* Compaq (http://www.compaq.com)

* Hewlett Packard (http://www.hp.com)

* Symbol (http://www.symbol.com)

BOTTOM LINE

The key difference between Palm and Pocket PC boils down to design. Palm OS was designed from scratch, and it is optimized to run on handheld PDAs. Pocket PC is a downsized version of the Windows OS and carries some of its limitations. Pocket PC still requires significantly more memory and a faster processor to equal the performance of its Palm competitors.

The future success of each lies in the other's strengths. Palm is working to add more robust color and multimedia support, while Microsoft will undoubtedly further downsize and optimize the Pocket PC OS in an attempt to attract a larger developer community.

Is a handheld PDA in your future? Absolutely. If you are looking to purchase a handheld PDA with rich color and multimedia support, then Pocket PC is the logical choice. Otherwise, Palm is still king of the PDA hill.

David M. Cieslak, CPA, MCR is a principal with Encino-based Information Technology Group.
COPYRIGHT 2001 California Society of Certified Public Accountants
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:CIESLAK, DAVID M.
Publication:California CPA
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jan 1, 2001
Words:638
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