I had a pair of clients who were primate researchers. In late 2006 they went into the Tanzanian bush with a bunch of Dell Axim X5s, which we chose over the sleeker, more modern X50s because of the lower price and the availability at the time of a superb third party aluminum case. The differences between the X5 and X50 were mainly skin-deep; a chunkier PDA was actually a bit nicer to use in the field.
They carried the computers and PDAs along with a sophisticated solar-powered field biology lab to their research site via motorized canoe, then by native bearers -- just like in the old Tarzan movies. Then I didn't hear from for two and a half years, except for a message that bandits had stolen their stuff and could we send replacement hardware, which we did. I was very gratified to learn that the data backup procedures I recommended worked -- that the principal investigators always carry an SD card with an up-to-date backup of all the expedition data on their persons. Previous experience supporting field researchers in Africa suggested that anything not nailed down was bound to disappear over the course of two years.
When they returned in 2009, they were agog. They'd gone into the bush with the most advanced consumer technology available. When they came back nobody was carrying PDAs anymore, there were iPhones everywhere. The left before the iPhone was announced and returned after everybody had one, and when they saw the user interface, there were staggered. They were like Rip Van Winkle waking up in a strange new world.
As for the poster's question, as a geek I totally understand it, but from a perspective of someone who actually developed for the platform professionally, there's little attraction to working with these devices when you can get an 4.3 inch Android "tablet" for under fifty dollars, and its so much more easier and more enjoyable to develop for. There was some really nice hardware built to run pocketpc, but pocketpc itself was mediocre in the extreme. I certainly tried the Linux ports that were available, but there really wasn't a compelling reason to use them, however, other than the novelty of having Unix on the palmtop. But they didn't deliver a better handheld experience (as iOS and Android do).
I'd still consider old-school hardware for sending into the bush for several reasons. The first is a removable battery. You're in the middle of a series of observations that will make your career (this often happens in field research) and your battery goes dead. So you carry a spare, which is more convenient and cost effective. The second reason is the SD card. You finish those career-making observations and head back to camp, but you drop your device into a deep, rocky gorge. With an SD or microSD card you just pop the card with your data out and it's just a minor mishap. Third, something a little more bulky than a razor-thin smartphone is better when you're chasing a troop of chimps through the jungle, your device in hand ready to record an observation at any instant.
You can of course get android devices which have the virtues of old-school hardware, but they're not mainstream -- in other words they're pricey. Back when the X5 was being manufactured, it was being sold to people to keep their address books on. And it sold by the gazillions, which meant on a unit price basis it was a bargain. Scientists often have awesome tech, but it's because they absolutely need it. They don't have money to throw at inessentials. So it was really nice to be able to load our guys up with tons of bargain consumer tech. If they busted an X5 they could just grab a spare out of the crate. It was as close to my perfect world as I believe we'll ever be, where data is priceless but hardware is disposable.
I got boxes of tech like this in my attic: Apple Newtons, Dell Axim x5s and X51s, practically every generation of Palm Pilot, very early proto-smart phones that ran "Windows CE", a ruggedized Trimble pocket pc with high accuracy DGPS built in. They all work too. And if anyone could do something interesting with them, it'd be me, because I developed for all of these devices back in the day. But I'm not going to bother. Modern platforms are more capable, more fun, easier to share your results with others.
Hardware is like fresh fish. You should buy it just before you need it, then use it right away before it begins to stink.