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Enterprise PDAs: An Unsolved Puzzle

As ARM-powered and high-resolution handhelds for the Palm platform flood the market, the demand for a PDA-equipped workforce appears to be picking up. But faster processors and improved screen resolutions alone won't speed enterprise PDA adoption. Several key pieces have yet to come together.

Ease of Use. PDAs are still difficult to use. Most of the problem has to do with the way interfaces are designed and inherent difficulties that come with balancing portability and screen size.

Wireless Connectivity. The increased availability of 2.5-G cellular systems opens the door to a range of new applications that require more than the 9,600-bps data rates that shackled 2-G systems. There's also been some progress in providing wireless LAN capabilities to PDAs.

Battery Life. Cell phone designers have set the bar for battery life expectations on mobile devices. It's tough to find many PDA users who are happy with battery life.

Cost. If you look at the engineering that goes into manufacturing a state-of-the-art PDA, getting one of these miracles of miniaturization for $500 is a bargain. But experienced IT professionals understand that purchase price is only the tip of the iceberg. The true annual cost of ownership for a business-oriented PDA is more than $3,000 when you factor in support costs, increasing to more than $4,000 when wireless capabilities are added, Gartner estimates.