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The Future of the PDA 251

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the look-into-the-crystal-ball dept.
An anonymous reader writes "XYZComputing is taking a look at the future of the PDA and what obstacles might stand in the way of continued popularity. From the article: 'While is hard not to appreciate the PDA's ability to change with the times, it appears that its heady days of mobile dominance are coming to an abrupt end. A number of factors are competing in the mobile products field right now, all of which are vying for the same buyers. The most formidable competition to the PDA is the smartphone, but there is also pressure from small laptops, the upcoming UMPC, increasingly capable cell phones, and a few other takers, like portable media players.'"
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The Future of the PDA

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  • The Original UMPC (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @06:12PM (#15117100) Homepage Journal
    I wrote a couple [utah.edu] of articles [utah.edu] about where I thought the PDA might be going back in 2002 and 2005. Specifically, I'd suppose (hope) that it might see a resurgence through the iPod phenomenon.

    We really have not seen a whole lot of innovation in the PDA market aside from color screens and somewhat faster CPUs since Palm and then Microsoft entered the market. The first device that truly works as an assistant that is affordable will, like Palm did in the 90's take over the market again. Phone use will be required, but could easily function with a Bluetooth earpiece. It will have to have a big enough screen in portrait or landscape mode to surf the web (surfing the web on my Tungsten T3 sucks), will have to be able to plug into a projector and deliver Keynote (or Powerpoint) presentations, read and annotate pdf's, have an honest 4-5hr battery life (ideally more, but this will depend upon new battery technology or fuel cells), be rugged, have a decent way to enter information through a keyboard (real or virtual) and be reasonably affordable.

    The Newton was the original UMPC and did many things very well (including handwriting recognition in the 110 and up), but were waaaay too expensive for their time. I had a 110 and a 120 that I used for years before they simply could not keep up, but that form factor is still ideal. Put a color screen in it, run OS X on a flash drive along with global band cell phone connectivity, 802.11 and Bluetooth and if you can sell it for $700-800 or so, you have the ideal PDA. That may be cutting the margins thin, but if Apple could sell it along with .Mac subscription/connectivity to enable syncing with your desktop/laptop and provide a cell phone service implemented like iChat, I suspect it could be highly profitable.

    • Re:The Original UMPC (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TommyBlack (899306) <webmaster@REDHAT ... com minus distro> on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @06:26PM (#15117193) Homepage
      It seems like there are a lot of things that PDA's should do but they don't. I have a Palm Tungsten E, and I keep thinking it should be more useful. For instance, the other day I needed some information I had on my USB flash drive, but I had nothing handy it could interface with; shouldn't this be the job of my PDA? Doesn't anyone who designs these things have this kind of inspiration?
      • Re:The Original UMPC (Score:5, Interesting)

        by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @07:25PM (#15117527) Homepage Journal

        I am of the opinion that USB flash drives are lame. Mind you, I have one on my keychain, and I use it, but that's only because I got it for free. The only kind that makes sense is the kind that's got a SD card (or similar) in it, and it's really just a tiny card reader. This was a lot less true when we didn't have access to $5 card readers, though. I got a several-in-one card reader (it says 7 in 1 or something, but it has four slots, they must be counting SD and MMC separately or something, which makes little sense) for free with my digital camera (from geeks.com) and you can buy them retail for under $20. You can order 'em off the 'net for practically nothing any day of the week. Also, many laptops now come with a memory card slot; usually this is SD/MMC, unless it's a sony.

        It doesn't make much sense to me to have storage tied to a particular interface. At the same time, it is absolutely retarded that PDAs are commonly USB clients, but not USB hosts. There are existing silicon solutions that let a device be both, and if a PDA is supposed to be a computer, it should be a USB host. My PDA, which was $200 as a refurb, is a 400MHz ARM (xscale) with 64MB RAM. That's more powerful than the first three computers I had with USB (though not all of them put together.)

        • Re:The Original UMPC (Score:3, Interesting)

          by glesga_kiss (596639)
          Simple solution is to get a PDA that takes SD cards, and carry around the USB reader. That's what I do. My PDA also has some third-party usb replacement drivers that turn the PDA into a keychain. Switch them on, connect to USB and your PDAs storage areas appear as mapped drives without any need for drivers in the OS.

          Or you could try this [dealmac.com] amazing little SD card that has a built in USB connector. One of the cleverest ideas of 2005 IMHO.

          At the same time, it is absolutely retarded that PDAs are commonly U

        • One of the issues with being a USB host is that PDAs generally don't have the battery capacity to supply USB power. The Nokia 770 (great device BTW), for example, can act as a USB host but will only work with powered peripherals (which excludes thumb drives) unless you use a powered hub in the middle.

          Obviously having to lug around a powered hub or search for a wall socket for your peripherals limits the usefulness somewhat. (Although there is a niche of battery-powered USB hubs.)
      • The Tungsten E has a SecureDigital slot. I suggest you use it.

        That said, you're right -- there are a lot of things that the PDA ought to be able to do, but doesn't (<rant>like, for starters, syncing properly with my Mac</rant>).
    • Phone use will be required, but could easily function with a Bluetooth earpiece. It will have to have a big enough screen in portrait or landscape mode to surf the web (surfing the web on my Tungsten T3 sucks), will have to be able to plug into a projector and deliver Keynote (or Powerpoint) presentations, read and annotate pdf's, have an honest 4-5hr battery life (ideally more, but this will depend upon new battery technology or fuel cells), be rugged, have a decent way to enter information through a keybo
      • by generic-man (33649) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @06:48PM (#15117344) Homepage Journal
        My old PalmPilot ran for 35 hours on two AAA batteries. It's considered about average for a small laptop to get one-tenth that much before you start strapping giant heavy batteries on all sides of it.

        Anyone who takes planes frequently (i.e. salespeople who tend to own PDAs) might actually benefit from a device with more than 5 hours of battery life.
        • by Steve001 (955086)

          generic-man wrote:

          My old PalmPilot ran for 35 hours on two AAA batteries. It's considered about average for a small laptop to get one-tenth that much before you start strapping giant heavy batteries on all sides of it.

          That is one of the problems with the newer PDAs: shorter battery life, combined with non-replaceable batteries. I used to use two sets of rechargable batteries with my Handspring Visor and as long as I changed the batteries every other day I always had plenty of battery power. If my ba

      • If you need all these features, why not just buy a subcompact notebook???

        Because there's a huge gulf between the biggest PDA and the smallest reasonably-priced subcompact notebook. Believe me, I've checked. There are PDAs that are cheap but too small, lower-priced Tablet PCs (and the new Origami devices) that are too big*, and things like the OQO that are the right size but more powerful and way more expensive than they need to be.

        *an "ultra-portable" computer ought to be as thin as a PDA, not 1" thick,

    • I've also written an article [blogspot.com] or two [saugus.net] over the years and agree that there's a lot to be learned from the Newton MessagePad.

      I wouldn't personally want OS X on it, though; a PDA-optimized OS like Newton makes more sense for the platform.

      Recent developments in roll-out keyboards, projection keyboards, etc. would also be most welcome.

    • I think you just described the UTStarcom 6700. It's shiny.
    • by Alaren (682568) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @06:41PM (#15117294)

      Your post brings up an excellent point and made me think about a debate I read earlier today--the whole "are-Pluto-and-Xena-planets?" thing.

      What is a PDA? What is a UMPC? Do we measure their capabilities, or their size, or what? And if you build a PDA in terms of size and capability, but it also is a phone, what do you call it? "Smartphone" seems catchy... so what if you take a UMPC form-factor and add videoconferencing or VOIP or something that makes it an oversized smartphone? Call it gigaphone or something?

      It seems silly to me to say (as the article suggests) that smartphones or laptops or whatever are "competing" with the PDA. Smartphones more or less are PDAs. Information appliances are increasingly convergent, and while there are some hits (e.g. Blackberries) and some misses (I'll predict the current "UMPC" push), the overall trend is convergence.

      The main bump in the road is real estate. Some people won't work on anything smaller than 10", some people will watch TV on a video iPod and call it good because it fits in their pocket. I think this is less a problem with technology that a hurdle created by personal preference. How much convergence do you want? How small do you want it? Increasingly, you can find the product you want no matter how you answer those questions.

      In that sense, yes, PDAs are "competing" with Smartphones or whatever. But it's no longer like saying Fords compete with Chevrolets; it's like saying that Laptops compete with Desktops.

      Now, if I could have a PDA-sized appliance that could run my entire gamut of digital needs, from phonecalls to gaming, plus provide (through dataports or, better yet, a holographic projector) whatever I/O real estate I want at the moment, then we'll have reached integration nirvana with the Shadowrun-esque "Personal Secretary" and we can stop talking about which devices fill which niches.

      The author suggests that "PDAs" will get simpler and focus on personal organization and low pricing. I think the author is stuck with a useless definition of "PDA"--basically a personal organizer with no other functionality. This is completely backwards. I personally predict that, in the end, we'll all be using PDAs--meaning, we'll all have personal digital assistants. But we'll have a lot of different names for them, and they'll have a lot of different capabilities.

      • by walt-sjc (145127) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @07:26PM (#15117535)
        My biggest beaf with smartphone/PDA's is that (in the US) they are exclusive to the cell phone company for the most part. They have a vested interest in NOT supporting WiFi, and DEFINATELY not VoIP via WiFi. Some companies (Verizon) also make it nearly impossible to install non-verizon applications on it, or deliberately cripple a device that was originally capable of doing much more.

        You end up with abortions like the Treo which is a really crappy phone and a pretty crappy PDA. Hell, you can't even get a decent simple phone with bluetooth without also getting the crappy MP3 player and crappy camera (and crippled bluetooth as well.) Furthermore, if you want to send an email they seem to want to tack on another $50 / month on top of a $60 voice plan. Considering DSL can now be had for $20/month, that's insane. Ya, it's wireless, but still...

        Now that's not to say that someone couldn't do one of these combo units RIGHT, but given history it is extremely unlikely that we will see it done well in the near future. The cell phone companies just don't get it.

        So anyway, I'm still waiting for something like a modern Zaurus which Sharp seems to have discontinued in the US for the most part. Nobody else seems to have anything close. Considering I can get a 1G SD card for $80 retail, these little 64M PDA's are just toys. Give me some ROOM man! Give my the ability to REALLY sync my mailbox which is running about 360M now... Frankly, I don't Need it to be a cellphone - not that I really want to put a brick up to my ear anyway, but I'd use it with a bluetooth headset. And VoIP over WiFi is mandetory.
        • I have a verixon treo 650 and I can install whatever on it.

          What is so crappy about the treo phone? Speaker is not great, but it works.

          What is crappy about the treo PDA? It runs the basic Palm PDA apps I need, calendar, contacts, memos,todo. I can use the stylus to control it or the rocker and keyboard.

          Try the treo, it works pretty well. It could be better in area, but it is good enough and converged...
        • You end up with abortions like the Treo which is a really crappy phone and a pretty crappy PDA. Hell, you can't even get a decent simple phone with bluetooth without also getting the crappy MP3 player and crappy camera (and crippled bluetooth as well.) Furthermore, if you want to send an email they seem to want to tack on another $50 / month on top of a $60 voice plan. Considering DSL can now be had for $20/month, that's insane. Ya, it's wireless, but still...

          You've got to be kidding. The Treo is neither

      • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @08:20PM (#15117798) Homepage Journal
        Some people won't work on anything smaller than 10", some people will watch TV on a video iPod and call it good because it fits in their pocket. I think this is less a problem with technology that a hurdle created by personal preference.

        Know what I want? Components! Make a variety of displays that are basically thin clients (via X11-over-Bluetooth? RDP? Whatever, just as long as it's the standard). Make a variety of processing units. Make a variety of input devices. Make a variety of speaker/headphone/microphone units. Most importantly, make multiple brands work together seamlessly. Convergence? I want divergence by piecing together the set of interoperable parts that fit the way I want to use them!

        In my dream setup, I sit down at a public access point and get my 8" screen and compact keyboard out of my bag. That's it. I'm set up and ready to use it. They both talk wirelessly to the real processor which is squirreled away in my messenger bag and only sees the light of day when I need to recharge it. If a cell or VOIP call comes in, it's automatically transferred to my wireless earpiece.

        Us geeks will always have the iPod-sized processing equivalent of an overclocked Celeron, but Joe Businessman can buy a quad-Xeon unit and car battery on wheels to power it. Maybe I'm just going to the grocery store, so I'd only take the 3" touchscreen (so I can mark off my shopping list as I go). Have to give a presentation? Bind to the projector client in the conference room until it's over.

        I truly think this is the future. I want a cheap Dell processing box that never leaves my shirt pocket, or beltclip, or whatever. I want a nice Samsung client to display it's output. I want a Happy Hacking portable keyboard for input. See, ever since Palm discontinued the IIIxe, their hasn't been a single model of PDA from any manufacturer that covers all the features I want. Dell might not make as much per individual item by selling the components separately, but I truly believe that they'd make a killing by hawking vast numbers of the smaller pieces. No PC maker that I know of sells monolithic PC-screen-keyboard-mouse desktop units, but that's exactly how they expect you to buy your portable electronics.

        Wake up, Apple and Dell! There's a whole untapped market of people who'd love to customize their PDAs, particularly those people who have never used one (start off with a cheap CPU and upgrade it later if you like it). And the thing is that all of the hardware, software, wireless tech, and protocols are in common use that could make this happen today.

      • by gatzke (2977)

        My Treo 650 does all I want, and technically it runs Palm PDA applications.

        I still have my calendar, my contacts list, my todos and my memos.

        But now I can make calls, take pics and movies, play games, listen to mp3s, edit word files, read ebooks and pdfs.

        And the battery life is great. And it has a keyboard, so no graphiti. I thought I would miss it, but I dont. I still use the stylus for some stuff, but I don't really need to.

        Whatever you call it, we now have convergence. Finally. It can be improved, b
      • What is a PDA? What is a UMPC? Do we measure their capabilities, or their size, or what? And if you build a PDA in terms of size and capability, but it also is a phone, what do you call it? "Smartphone" seems catchy... so what if you take a UMPC form-factor and add videoconferencing or VOIP or something that makes it an oversized smartphone? Call it gigaphone or something?

        "Tricorder," perhaps?
    • Put a color screen in it, run OS X on a flash drive along with global band cell phone connectivity, 802.11 and Bluetooth and if you can sell it for $700-800 or so, you have the ideal PDA.

      I am a firm believer that a pure PDA device should leave out the cell phone connectivity. Once you add that in, the only way you're going to be able to get one is through the cell companies, which will try to hobble the device.

      Besides which, it's an added expense and power draw for the mobile device.

      The key to good po

      • so that you can easily have it connect as required to a real cell phone

        Why stop there? Why not just separate out the functionality into a "screen" module (that would look like a PDA, but thinner), a "CPU/disk" module (that would resemble an iPod), and a "tranciever" module (that would look like a cellphone, but would also include Wi-Fi). They could all communicate via Bluetooth (or something like it).

        The best part is, the parts could be mix-and-match -- swap out the PDA-like display for a head-mounted on

        • You won't get a lot of argument from me, although with flash memory prices coming down as capacities increase, I don't see why devices can't have a certain amount of local storage for those times when they aren't near their paired storage module.

          The wireless technologies would have to improve in speed, mind you. Bluetooth v1.x can be slow, and Bluetooth plus a hard drive could be a serious power drain.

          But these issues are solvable, and I agree -- being able to have devices which can talk to one another e

          • The wireless technologies would have to improve in speed, mind you. Bluetooth v1.x can be slow, and Bluetooth plus a hard drive could be a serious power drain.

            Actually, I wouldn't mind having a wired connection either, in most cases. The only thing that would really need to be wireless would be the display tablet, because it would be going into and out of a pocket or something instead of staying in a fixed location like all the other components.

            my cell phone, PDA, and iPod all have my calendar and Addr

            • Really? Your iSync and my iSync must be two different things, because mine fails to preserve catagories when transferring appointments and tasks to and from my Palm. Or are you using that "jSyncManager" thing in your sig?

              The two are probably the same -- it's probably just a matter of difference in how we are using the tools. For my part, I do the vast majority of my data entry in iCal and the OS X Address Book. It is rather rare that I do any entry into the Palm (or the cell phone for that matter).

              The

    • by DocLandolt (920512)
      The future of the PDA isn't dire -- it just needs to find its niche. Like everything else, portable computing will eventually modularize (when consumers have their way, at least), and the day we see the emergence of a half decent wearable display, and hopefully some versitile input mechanisms, the PDA will lose its jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none chains and morph into a powerhouse of a mini-cpu, storage and personal area networking hub.
  • I know many people who buy PDAs purely for their gps capabilities
    • ... and they have comms back to infor servers etc to provide location aware services.

      Given that you pretty much need a phone, it makes very little sense to duplicate the comms capabilities in a PDA. As the copmms capabilities improves (better comms at lower cost), we're going to see more of a move towards a "thinner client" phone. Why have a whole lot of storage etc on your phone when you can just pull it off a backend server?

      Phones are also far lower cost to the user because they can often be amortised as

    • by binarybum (468664) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @06:39PM (#15117275) Homepage
      that's why I bought mine, but I evolved and now use it as much as a PDA as a GPS. I hope this article is wrong, but I fear that the ubiquity of the cellphone and the well recognized need for integration of portable devices will push the format more towards a phone form and less toward a PDA. This is a shame as the PDA is in my opinion a far better interface and could easily accommodate gps, bluetooth phone, media player, and simple camera functions.
      • the well recognized need for integration of portable devices

        Surely you mean the well recognized need for disintegration of portable devices, right? 'Cause the biggest problem with cell phones and PDAs are that they try to do to many different things. If a PDA would just focus on being a good display and pen-based input device, a cellphone would just focus on being a good tranciever, and an iPod would just focus on being a good disk and CPU, then you could hook them all up with Bluetooth or something and

      • The problem is the cellphone companies are winning the war because they have the killer app. And they're not very motivated to offer general-purpose capabilities like a Palm. They like every little thing locked down and a separate line item on the monthly bill.
  • by Com2Kid (142006) <com2kidSPAMLESS@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @06:17PM (#15117134) Homepage Journal
    How about something that has the functionality of the older palms:

    • basic handwriting reco through graffiti or the like
    • Keeps track of names, phone numbers, basic notes, a todo list
    • Simple interface


    It doesn't even need a color screen, though grayscale would be nice just for legibility reasons.

    A 20mhz or so CPU should suffice, if even that much is needed. It would be cool if it could fit in the credit card holder of my wallet (most wallets suck as it is, when you are limited to the subset of wallets that can carry a PDA, it becomes really hard to find a non-cruddy one), and has a week long battery life or some such. Oh yes, and STATIC MEMORY. Honestly, only 4 or so megs are needed.

    Price? No more than $50.
    • by iabervon (1971) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @07:03PM (#15117419) Homepage Journal
      I'd also really like to see something that's UI-equivalent with my trusty Handspring Visor Deluxe. The differences I want:

      Sync with a standard mini-USB cable, instead of a cradle.

      Support charging rechargable AAA batteries when plugged in.

      Use sane file formats for memos, notes, calendar entries, and addresses.

      It'd be nice to support a mini-SD card for storage, so that you can replace it if it breaks by removing the card and putting it in a new one.

      I think it would be cute to support Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, just so you could look weird in cafes, with a full-size keyboard for a computer the size of the numeric keypad. But that's just silly.
    • Better yet..

      Just an old DOS/Linux based computer. Weak processor, decent keyboard and screen, no GUI, something like emacs which can do pretty much everything you want to.

      • There used to be a device like this called (Depending on who sold it) the Tandy Zoomer, Casio Z-PDA7000, and GRiD GRiDPad 2390. It had a 20MHz V20 CPU (NEC 8086 knockoff, available in low power versions), a 384x512 4-grey LCD, and PC-GEOS. It had a type 2 PCMCIA slot and DOS card management software, and it was possible to use flash memory cards for storage, or network cards that had dos drivers. It was about the size of a paperback book, and it had four channel 16 bit 22 kHz audio (I think), and a decent s
    • I can get you pretty close--the Palm Z22. You won't want to carry it in your wallet (ouch...the idea had never occurred to me before), but I just replaced my Sony Clie with one of these, and I'm happy. The Clie cost me $400 bucks back when it was first introduced, and I was going to do all kinds of wonderful things with this slim brushed-aluminum wonder (you know, like hook it up to a GPS and never get lost again, and listen to music, and well...lots of stuff).

      Well, I never did a thing with the Clie that

    • Except for the handwriting recognition, they were available [geek.com] five years ago. There apparently aren't many people who share your needs (although I'd count myself in that group).
      • Except for the handwriting recognition, they were available five years ago. There apparently aren't many people who share your needs (although I'd count myself in that group).

        I never understood why the Rex didn't become ubiquitous and make the inventors very, very rich. Mind you, I had the same thought about the Crosspad which was an utterly brilliant piece of hardware doomed by some of the most awful pre-beta software I've ever encountered.

    • Yeah, and while we're at it -- since we have the technology now -- make it as thin and ergonomic as an iPod Nano. I'd buy that!
    • And the screen does not even have to be a touchscreen. All that is needed is a touchpad like a laptop and a stylus.

      Price? No more than $20.
    • I'd add three things to this list:
      1. A calendar
      2. The todo list has due dates, and the deadlines show up in the Calendar. Suprisingly, Even Outlook 2003 doesn't do this.
      3. The ability to sync with some desktop PIM software, hopefully something besides MS Outlook.


      4. I'd happily pay $150 if this was all integrated into a cell phone. But the Smartphones all seem to lack one of these basic features, or they add a ton of useless features which add tot he price.
      • I'd happily pay $150 if this was all integrated into a cell phone. But the Smartphones all seem to lack one of these basic features, or they add a ton of useless features which add tot he price

        I forgot to mention-- many of these devices are available cheap from the Mobile providers, but they require a 2-year contract. In many cases, this isn't worth the trade-off.
  • by TimmyDee (713324) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @06:24PM (#15117176) Homepage Journal
    The UMPC, in its current form and price (and usability) will not be an issue in the "downfall" of the PDA. It may have the ability to sideline the PDA in some markets and applications, but those will be relatively limited. Onto my real point. . .

    "Increasingly capable cellphones", as the summary puts it, will be the real challenge to the PDA. Many people bought PDAs to be electronic datebooks, address books, and the like. Some people felt it worthwhile to carry them, others (myself included) found it to be a hassle. Cellphones, on the other hand, are far more likely to make it into our pockets. The natural evolution was to add PDA-like functionality. So PDAs evolved into cellphones or cellphones evolved into PDAs. I would argue that there are examples of both (the Treo being a phonified PDA and Series 60 devices being PDAified cellphones).

    My take home message is thus: The PDA is not dead. It has merely evolved thanks to the advent of widespread mobile phones. If we look at some current cellphones, many have more power than the original Palm Pilots. About the only thing they lack is a more sophisticated input method (that may be arguable, though, when T9 is compared to Graffiti).

    Some manufacturers will still make "pure" PDAs, but the PDA is not dead. The PDA has merely evolved.
    • "Increasingly capable cellphones", as the summary puts it, will be the real challenge to the PDA.

      Would you spend hours on the phone telling the phone company all about your friends and plans? No? Me neither. That is why my PDA will not be a cell phone unless I can install the software myself, like OpenZaurus. I have similar thoughts about trusting any information to Microsoft in any way.

      Privacy aside, cell phone and M$ PDAs suck. M$'s handwriting recognition and interface continuse to be third rate.

    • I don't disagree with anything you say, but I do want to say that basically all cellphones made today have more processing power than an original palm pilot, which had a 16MHz Dragonball CPU, from the days when the dragonball was based on the 68000. My Motorola V300, which is a well-outdated phone, was middle of the road when I Got it and has a 206 MHz 32 bit RISC processor and an ATI graphics coprocessor which handles the camera and which does 2d graphics acceleration. Even my crappy little suppository-siz
    • My problem with this is not about processing power, or memory, or anything like that, but simply about form factor. Any device that makes a comfortable and easy to carry phone, makes for an awful PDA, and any device that makes a good PDA, is uncomfortable as a phone.

      A PDA needs to be mostly screen, and input area. That always makes for having to talk with a brick to your head. In my opinion, all the best mobile phones have been clamshell designs, which retain a comfortable angle between the earpiece and the
      • Bluetooth headsets would theoretically allow any form factor for a PDA/Phone, even something built into your clothes. (Instead of clipping your phone to your belt, the phone is your belt.)

        The other thing I'd like to see is foldable screens/input devices. Still a ways off, but it would certainly be nice to have a bigger screen when I wanted it that I could just fold up and stuff in my pocket.


      • What is so crap about the Treo? You don't like the single piece design? Is it awkward for you? I personally hate clamshell designs since they are apt to break.

        Is the treo too big? For what it does, it is a great size.

        Don't like holding it to your head? Get a BT headset or corded earpiece and mics.

        PS- I love my treo, if you couldn't tell.
  • the upcoming UMPC

    Errr, shouldn't that be ....

    the upcoming video iPod
  • New PocketPCs stink (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kimvette (919543) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @06:26PM (#15117196) Homepage Journal
    The current crop of PocketPCs stink. I'm anxious to upgrade, but here is what I am finding:

      - NONE offer PCMCIA support (rendering my 5GB HDD useless)
      - If you want 128MB or more of RAM, the highest resolution you will get is quarter-VGA (320x240)
      - If you want VGA (640x480) resolution, the most RAM you'll get is 64MB
      - Lack of accessories (e.g., high capacity batteries)

    Thanks to Carly Fiorina canning the iPaq line (she basically brought back the inferior Journada line) expansion capability of the PocketPC is nil, and the quality has only gone downhill. I'm glad she got fired but she managed to kill the PocketPC platform just as it was gaining steam. I still use my 3670 but I need more RAM, higher resolution, a faster CPU, and expansion capability. :(
    • Oh, and one more thing:

      - If you want USB host capability, forget about 128MB RAM, VGA, and by the way you'll be getting the slower CPU, too

      I don't want my phone and PDA integrated. I want GPS at a reasonable resolution, I need to be able to take notes at a meeting, if I need to get on the web I should be able to use WiFi or Bluetooth and use a browser at a reasonable (VGA) resolution, plus why should I buy a separate MP3 player or portable DVD player when a standalone PocketPC is perfectly capable o
    • I hate Carly as much as the next person, but I have an IPAQ HX4700 thats a post Carla device and it reminds me of my 36xx - and while it doesn't have pcmcia - I do have a 4 gig cf card for it (not 5 gigs I know, but still thats a shitload of ram for a small little device). It has 480x640 graphics, 64 megs of ram - and there's a certian company that will hack it to 128 - but I've never seen the need.
    • NONE offer PCMCIA support (rendering my 5GB HDD useless)

      If you want to use PCMCIA devices, you don't want a PDA, you want a small laptop.

      There's no way you're getting a tiny handheld with a big PCMCIA slot in it.

      If you want VGA (640x480) resolution, the most RAM you'll get is 64MB

      Who cares? I've lot way too much data to trust the RAM for storage. Plug-in a CF or SD card for all the storage you could want. (I'm still pissed SD is getting more popular, when CF is more than small enough, and 50% less expens

    • I have re-discovered my old iPaq, and am finding it to be great! With MythTV + mencoder + TCPMP + 1GB CF I can take recorded TV with me to watch on the train (+ listen to Podcasts). I can read all of my Palm DOCs and Avantgo content. It still can sync Calendar fine w/ Outlook/Exchange. I upgraded to a high capacity Lithium Polymer battery for ~$20 on Ebay and get good battery life. I can put in PCMCIA sleeve, connect w/ WiFi and play MP3s off of the slimserver at home. With all the hoopla over PMPs etc.
    • by benzapp (464105)
      Windows Mobile 5 has its issues... but the memory design is now totally different. PRevious versions of WIndows CE used main memory for storing files AND program execution. It was never really 128 megs of ram, it was whatever you set as memory allocation (usually 64/64 for most people)

      Now, that is no longer the case. All files are stored on regular flash memory, and main memory is used for program execution only. My Dell Axim X51v, which has a VGA screen, comes with 192megs of flash memory built in. Th
  • by kbob88 (951258) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @06:28PM (#15117212)
    I think there is a market for PDAs, but not as they are currently configured.

    Most of the current uses of a PDA will probably be ceded to smartphones (calendar, address book, tasklist, calculator, MP3 player, etc).

    The one advantage that a PDA could have is that its form factor has traditionally been small enough to be truly portable and almost large enough that tasks that are next to impossible on phones' small screens (e.g., surfing the Web, using interactive applications) can actually be performed on them without too much user frustration.

    Who really likes using the Internet on a phone? Does anyone think that tablet PCs are really that portable (without a laptop bag)?

    Therefore I think there would be a market for PDAs with good sized screens and Wifi/cellular data connections. People would use them as an appliance to surf the Internet and for other applications that required more screen real estate than a phone has. The real killer machine would be about the size of a checkbook (so it fits in your pocket) and flips open to reveal two screens that fit up against each other almost seamlessly, thus doubling screen size.

    I think UMPCs are too big, and smartphones too small to be truly portable yet usable Internet appliances. PDAs could fit that niche (thus blurring the distinction between them and UMPCs).
    • I carry a PDA (iPAQ H2200) in my pocket on a regular basis. I use it for playing music in the car (though a tape deck adapter - I know, how early 1990s is that?) and for loads of other fun stuff, like playing solitaire :) It has only internal bluetooth, no wifi, but I have a Sandisk 802.11b+128MB flash CF, and a 1GB SD card. The idea is that soon I Will be getting a motorola V555 which has bluetooth (essentially an updated V500, which is just the same as my V300 but with bluetooth) and I will be getting GP

    • Yes, yes, dear God, yes!!! You've just described exactly what I want (although I'd be perfectly satisfied with a larger rigid screen, instead of a folding one): 800x600 (or better yet, 1024x768) display, about 9x12x1cm (maybe larger but not thicker), with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a good battery, and without such a fancy processor etc. that it becomes more than $1000.
  • Sadly, it's true. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by calice (570989)
    I rely on my Palm for all sorts of things. Primarily just keeping organized, GPS, and a book reader. When i (thought) I had lost my old one a few months back I went out to get another. No retailers carry the things in quantity anymore, and they are hard as all hell to find where they are displayed. One place I went actually had them in a cage underneath a counter, no display or anything. While a smartphone is fine for most, i believe in the general thought that if you take 2 things and combine them, yo
    • you wind up with 2 inferior things in one. A bulky, annoying phone, and a small-screened pda.

      True enough. I've yet to see a smart phone that handles the same sorts of tasks a PDA can handle as well as a PDA. Most of the smart phones I've seen so far are comparable more to organizers more than true PDAs.

      It's interesting that you mention using PDAs as book readers. I also found that I use their book reading capabilities a lot. I use them not for just traditional free e-books [newtonslibrary.org], though, but also free in [ifarchive.org]

  • by saifrc (967681) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @06:37PM (#15117265)
    Compare the installed base of PDAs (either by model, by manufacturer, or by the class of devices as a whole) to the installed base of portable gaming devices (GameBoy, et. al.), and you might see *one* possible direction for the PDA. Previously, games were popular on a PDA, but the limitations (speed, memory, battery life, etc.) made it evident that portable gaming on a PDA wasn't enough to keep the PDA craze alive as we knew it. The Nintendo DS, though, is already starting to look more and more like a PDA every day: there's a homebrew organizer (http://www.youngmx.com/?loc=ndsdev/DSOrganize [youngmx.com]), a Linux project (http://dslinux.org/ [dslinux.org]), and even a game that features puzzles aimed at/successful with older people (http://www.nintendo.com/gamemini?gameid=tYVqJgro- KG6QL_mMbXFoQTkQIzgi9nU [nintendo.com]). The fact that it has touch/stylus input and 802.11b is enough to get one's mental gears turning at the possible confluence of a gaming idiom and personal information management idiom in a single device. Perhaps the change will come from the other direction. As millions and millions more Nintendo DS units (and Sony PSP units, for that matter) are sold, we may get a population of generally older, more sophisticated portable gamers who demand a bit more functionality from their handheld devices -- the very same functionality that a stripped-down, basic PDA would have provided. Instead of a feature-rich-but-mostly-underused PDA that can play games, we might have a gaming-device-that-also-holds-my-calendar that can read e-mails. And I guarantee you that there are more GameBoys out there than Palms.
  • by pawsa (92107) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @06:38PM (#15117270) Homepage

    iPAQ hw6515 [hp.com] is a step in the right direction: it is a PDA with an ability to make phone calls. It has PocketPC OS with its advantages and disadvantages. You can make phone calls, surf the web, listen to MP3s, send e-mails, take photos and find out where you are - yes, it has a GPS module, too. The "qwerty" keyboard is quite handy and beats T9 systems without a doubt. The software has few quirks and takes few days to learn. Setting up secure email submission is difficult if not outright impossible but I guess this was never MS priority.

  • PDA? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ivan Pistoff (964873) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @06:38PM (#15117272)
    Doesn't PDA stand for Portable Digital Assistant? If you're cell phone is digital and it assists you in some way isn't it then a PDA? Same with laptops and media players. How can they "compete" with PDA's when them themselves are PDA's? Stupid....

  • 24 (Score:2, Funny)

    I want Jack Bauer's PDA.
  • by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @06:45PM (#15117318) Homepage
    As someone who uses a PDA (Dell Axim x50v, WM2003) every day, I can say that PDAs have a large number of problems. The browser MS ships is amazingly terrible (if a page is long enough, it just stops drawing the background at certain points, for example). The way programs run is pathetic (there is no way to exit them by default, Dell ships a little utility to "fix" that problem). Large parts of the configuration is just hard to do (wireless for example). The calendar program on my device (whatever MS's program is) just looks ugly. Terribly ugly. I would KILL to get iCal on the thing. All the applications look like they were designed for 4 color devices, when I don't think there was anything under 256 when I bought my PDA (which is 65k). Other applications supplied with it are as hard to use. The interface used to add new appointments and tasks isn't very easy to use either. Don't get me started on ActiveSync. Installing applications is a major pain too.

    I had a Newton long ago. It was a very nice device. It was big and heavy because it was ahead of it's time, but the interface was quite nice. If Apple were to release a new Newton (or whatever they decide to call it) that was nothing more than iCan and Address Book I would be happy. VERY happy. They could add more and make it a full-fledged PDA (SafariMini, iMail2Go, whatever) I would only be happier. Someone with a decent UI touch is badly needed. I've heard rumors that the touch-screen iPod will do this (we'll see if that even exists) and if it does I will gladly upgrade.

    Or imagine how long it could last without a charge if it used ePaper? They could make it the size of a PC Card (like the old Rex PDAs) with a touch screen. Considering all the high-rez high-color screens we see out there (in phones, other PDAs, digital cameras, PSPs and DSes, etc.) they could put a great screen in there and have good battery life if they didn't go the ePaper route.

    PDAs are OK, but they have enough problems that I can see why more people wouldn't want them (especially if your phone is half-decent and can sync with your computer, stupid Sprint crippleware LG PM-325).

    Give me an OLD Newton. Same as it was. Just shrink it (as would be trivial with today's technology) and make it sync with iCal and AddressBook and I'd be happy.

    Please Apple, give us a good PDA. You did it for computers, you did it for digital music players, do it for PDAs.

    • by Feneric (765069) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @06:54PM (#15117374) Homepage

      If Apple were to release a new Newton (or whatever they decide to call it) that was nothing more than iCal and Address Book I would be happy. VERY happy.

      With just those two features in mind one could argue that they already did, and it's called the iPod. It has both a calendar app and address book app that synchronize with iCal and Address Book on the Mac. My brother uses an iPod in exactly this fashion.

      Mind you, I'm playing devil's advocate here. I don't think the iPod interface is well-suited for PDA type functions, and I'd much prefer something that learns from the Newton [blogspot.com].

      • I'm aware of that and I would use it except for two things.

        First, you need a cable to sync. I know people talk about BlueTooth iPods and say "Why use BlueTooth headphones?" and I agree. But if they put BT 2 in the next iPods (like is in the current Macs) it would be fast enough to easily Sync playlist data and add a few new tracks to your iPod fast (every time you get within range maybe?). Sure when you replace 6 gigs of music you'll want to use a cable, but when you add one CD it'd be great. It would make

    • All of the problems you describe are fixed with Familiar [handhelds.org] or Open Zaurus [openzaurus.org]. I can strongly recommend either GPE or Opie on Zaurus. They both have graffiti packages that are first rate, good browsers and personal information managers. Opie, as a bonus, has a media player that does ogg, mp3 and everthing else you can think of. The newer media player is using Xine as a back end and does streaming media. Flashing the Zaurus is easy to do. I'd consider a M$ PDA a brick before flashing. Sharp's original softwar
      • That may be true, but that's not an option for me. I have a Dell Axim x50v. OpenZarus is only for Zaruses (Zaruai?). Familar rates my model as "not ready for users".

        I use my PDA too much to spend 2 weeks+ fiddling with it trying to get some unsupported OS running on it (that rates it's self as unready for my device).

        They look nice, but they really aren't an option for most users. Before I would switch, I would need my WiFi to work minimum, along with syncing to my Mac, which it didn't look like was an opt

  • Look at the palm 700w. It does everything a dell axim does ... has the stupid SDIO slot, and stylus ... you can add sd mem cards or GPS or whatever you want .. plus windows mobile PDA apps. Its the same damn thing as any other PDA but also functions as a phone. Actually, its nicer cause its got a clean little qwerty keyboard right on the front for 1 handed use. I'd never use a plain PDA, but i'm pretty stoked on my 700w.
  • PDA market won't truly take off until Apple re-enters it. Apple could actually make a PDA that doesn't suck ass. They did it once, they can do it again, squared.
  • right after the spin-off from Palm, I correctly predicted that the OS itself would someday prove far more valuable than the actual PDAs that used them, as firms such as Nokia et al were using them to run their cell phone OS.

    That said, I should point out that my old Palm V still works fine - my son found it under a pile of books last year and asked if he could have it - he uses it as a PDA (plus it's got a nice gunmetal case that flips open he can stick some bills and his Boys & Girls Member Card in).

    So,
  • It's somewhat like the Windows monopoly. Everybody has Windows, and everybody has a mobile phone. Those phones will keep adding functionality, co-opting ideas and testing user response till the PDA is a thing of the past, or rather, a function of your phone. Some will never use it, but it'll be there just the same.

    By the way, same thing goes for the MP3 player, although that may take a bit longer.

  • That article hurt my head - I swear I could feel brain cells dying as I read it.

    Seriously - I have a Sprint 6700 phone. Its essentially a PDA with phone functionality - why is this not considered a PDA instead of a smart phone?

    The PDA isn't going to die - its going to get subsumed by devices that offer more features. Duh.

  • I have a great PDA. It's called a Tapwave Zodiac.

    * Great media player capabilities: Though it won't play DRMed content, it plays standard Divx and MP3s with free software from the Web [corecodec.org]. (The video player software that came with it was some annoying proprietary thing. The MP3 player was fine, but the free media player I got plays OGGs too.) Battery life can be a problem with long movies, but not for episodes of The Venture Brothers [amazon.com], well if only there were some way to get episodes of that show in DiVX

    • I love my Tapwave Zodiac: you get a nice 4 inch screen, Stereo Speakers that are quite loud, 2 SD card slots for 4Gb of total storage, Bluetooth, and a 4-5 hour play time. Use Core Media Player and pocketDiVXencoder for video. You can encode movies down to 200Megs. Bluetooth GPS. I Use LJZ for Console emulation of GB, NES, SNES, Gen, NGP, WS,and TG16. There are also some SD games(Doom,DukeNukem,SpyHunter,Galactic realms, and Legacy). There is also a free version of Quake and Hexen avaliable. Also there is a
  • phone, pda, laptop (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JanneM (7445) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @07:15PM (#15117475) Homepage
    There's a lot of different device categories out there, but only so much space in peoples' pockets or in their minds. Two interactive devices, perhaps three if one is special purpose, is probably the limit.

    On the high end, small and light notebooks are good enough today that they work as real computers - I have a Panasonic R3, and it's my only computer. I meant to get a real desktop as a complement, but I just never got arond to it. Whenever I have my bag with me (and I usually have), it comes along. And it is a far better platform for "computing" than any PDA out there. If I were to get a PDA again, it would have to be something that complements this one on the low end.

    On the other end, my current, normal (not a smartphone) phone is capable of most incidental things I need. Calling (not that I actually speak that often), email, music player, small text reader (directions, schedule and the like), alarm clock, dictionary - web surfing too, though I don't use it much. It's certainly not perfect - the screen resolution does equal that of my old PalmIII, and is in color and much easier to read, but is of course smaller - but it is always with me and it is _good_enough_.

    A PDA would have to displace either my phone or my computer for me to consider one again. And to do that it would have to do what the lost gadget did at least reasonably well, and give me something extra - some compelling functionality that would make it interesting to switch in the first place. I am not aware of any such functionality today.

  • I love PDAs, I'm never without my last of the line Clie. I find the PDA indispensable not only for keeping lists and contacts but as an e-book, simple camera and a GPS enabled navigator (particularly with vindigo). On the other hand, I have a very simple prepaid cellphone because I despise cellular companies, particularly with regard to the level of control they attempt to maintain over one's data, as well as the privacy failures of various cell features.

    And no, paper and pencil notebooks don't cut it. The
  • The PDA no longer has a role to play. A modern cell phone

    • Can store hundreds of address entries
    • Has a calendar facility
    • Syncs with Outlook etc
    • Takes pictures
    • Plays mp3s
    • Does One-on-one video conferencing
    • Surfs the net
    • Runs java


    Now what do we need the PDA for? Really? Stop being so backwards, PDA fan boys!
  • ...question is, are there enough like me to justify the market? :)

    I got an Axim X51v as my first Pocket PC. Had been explicitly holding off for about four years because I do not need a gadget to remind me of appointments, phone numbers and the like. Instead, the things that got me wanting a PDA or similar were:

    • WiFi capability (to read the Saturday morning paper in bed :))
    • A relatively large, readable screen. Lets me read books when waiting for doctors and at many other times
    • Powerful processor to e.g. p
  • Why can so many 'tech' writers miss the simple stuff?

    PDAs were always basic 'PC' functionality that fits in the pocket.

    The older PDA market was based on a simple fact. Portable processing power and storage managed with battery life.

    If you play out battery life at the important item, phones are surpassing PDA technology of a couple years ago, and giving you 100% of the functionality. Look at the smartphone from MS even, it is a low overhead OS but you can browse the net with standard browser specifications a
  • I've got a Treo650 (which I love) and it's pretty obvious that this is the form factor things will use. By this, I mean it has a screen as small as you can get away with in PDA/internet applications but is as big as the masses are willing to lug around. 2.5" x 4.5" x 1" is about the limits engineers have to work with from a market standpoint.

    I figure the next generation Treo, call it the Treo800, will have all the required checkbox features: bluetooth (headset, modem, keyboard, stereo audio), 3G wireless
  • by jc42 (318812) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @08:44PM (#15117927) Homepage Journal
    I remember reading that back when the first Palm Pilot was being developed, there was a mantra among the developers to the effect that "If it doesn't fit in my pocket, it won't be in my pocket."

    This is why I'd predict that the "smartphone" will win over the "PDA". The gadgets that are being marketed as PDAs now mostly are physically too large for the typical shirt pocket.

    My wife even has a Treo, but she mostly leaves it home on the desk, because it's "too big", and carries a tiny cell phone that's just a phone. The Treo doesn't get used much, except for the few games she has loaded. (She loves the Sudoku puzzles. ;-)

    For several years, I had a Kyocera smartphone, which I used a lot as both phone and PDA. At least I did, until it lost its calendar, and when I tried to reload from backup, it "backed up" its (empty) calendar, wiping out the backup. So I went back to a paper pocket calendar, which is more powerful anyway.

    When it started dying, due to a company subsidy I got a CrackBerry. It also fits in my pocket, and is a fairly good phone, but otherwise not too useful. Now that I don't work there any more, and pay for it myself, I find that it's not worth the money. If you're not on an Outlook email system, its email is fairly cruddy and difficult to use. Its browsers are all cruddy, not much better than the initial Mosaic release. And our attempts to use it as a modem all came to naught. (Yeah, the salesmen said it would work, but after the company signed the deal and gave us developers the BBs, we found that RIM's CS people couldn't be bothered to answer our question.) So much for the idea that it would get our laptops connected where there was no wifi.

    Frankly, the things are mostly a waste of money, unless you have one with software tailored for the one job you need it for.

    I keep hoping the handhelds.org people will come up with a way to do a pocket-size gadget that does GSM/GPRS/wifi and can also talk IP across a USB and/or Bluetooth link. With linux on board, including ssh, I could program the rest of the stuff myself, and we won't have to deal with the obtruction from the phone companies who insist on locking us out of the most useful stuff.

    Yeah, I know; I'm dreaming. There's no way the US phone companies will allow a pipsqueak like me to use "their" infrastructure for my own development purposes.

  • Nothing's "on the verge of dying" or anything here, really. Basically every handheld device is moving slightly towards a central idealistic box which we could call, the SmartPDApocketPhone or, SPPP.

    The SPPP is basically a:
    PDA with more power and a GSM phone plugin
    or
    A phone with morepower and a touchscreen added
    or
    A miniaturized computer stripped of some functionalities, but added a touchscreen and a GSM phone plugin.

    Sooooo all in all, every device is slowly becoming another. The phone is dead by the way. Yea
  • I recently did some searching to find a PDA to replace my old Handspring Visor Deluxe.

    Unfortunately I was disappointed to find that none of the newer models, Palm or Pocket PC, use regular AAA batteries anymore. Rechargeable is supposed to be more convenient, but I like my battery life to be measured in weeks, not days or hours. I can easily go 4-5 weeks between battery changes with my Visor, but with one of the new color PDAs I'm afraid this would be cut much shorter.

    Maybe I'm in the minority, but I like
  • PDA future = bright (Score:3, Informative)

    by M0b1u5 (569472) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @11:52PM (#15118784) Homepage
    Disclaimer: I did not RTFA

    However, I am currently in the market for a PDA for my mother to travel with, for 3 months, to Africa and Europe. She has just bought a nice new Digital camera with a 1GB SD card in it.

    Here's why PDAs are important: SIZE AND WEIGHT!

    For a 3-month trip, for a 70-year old woman every single gram of weight is important. A laptop is simply out of the question, as she'd throw the thing in the rubbish after 3 weeks, I'm sure.

    What she needs is a device with the following attributes:

    1) Small
    2) Light
    3) colour screen of at least half VGA resolution
    4) hand writing recognition
    5) WiFi
    6) Bluetooth
    7) At least 2GB of storage
    9) Email
    10) Web surfing
    11) MP3 player
    12) Diary/Blog functionality
    13) SD card reader
    14) Image slideshow
    15) Screen orientation flip
    16) Fast recharge
    17) At least 6 hours battery life
    18) Ability to open most "common" file formats: PDF, Word, Excel etc.
    19) Voice recorder

    Of lesser importance, and able to be performed by a different device are

    1) Very small and light, yet full size keyboard
    2) Ability to dial-up to the Internet via GSM or Analog cellular connection.

    features which are currently not available but would be desirable:

    1) Projector, such that the cigarette-packet size object can create a screen of 19" (or larger) size at resolution of at least 1280 mode.
    2) Biometric security: finger print enables device after powerup.
    3) User swappable battery - or preferably, methanol based fuel-cell.

    Currently, I am leaning towards the PalmOne "LifeDrive" with 4GB of disc space, and the iTech Virtual Keyboard, which uses a low power laser to project the KB onto a surface.

    I feel that these two devices, along with a bluetooth-enabled GSM cell phone (which she already has), coupled with the WiFi and Bluetooth offer a traveller unparalleled connectivity and productivity at a very low "footprint". When space and weight are considered, the PDA definitely has a niche, but in the future, as fuel-cells allow faster processors, it's only a matter of time til the PDA is a full-featured PC, with USB2.0, firewire, built-in cellphone, projector, and incorporates a VKB - all in a single device.

    Can I order mine now please?

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