Converged devices are becoming a must-have for the businessperson on the go. IT World Canada recently tested two of the newer devices on the Canadian market, the PocketPC 6700 from UTStarcom and the Treo 650 from Palm.
Converged devices combine a PDA and a cell phone with an e-mail reader and integrated Qwerty keyboard, cutting down on the devices the mobile worker needs to carry.
The Blackberry from Research in Motion in Waterloo, Ont. was the first out of the gate and still leads the market, but competition is growing from the Treo and PocketPC, as well as the iPaq from Hewlett Packard.
Palm pioneered the PDA, and has a ready market of faithful Palm users migrating to the Treo. Available from Rogers Wireless, Bell Mobility and Telus Mobility, the Treo looks similar to the Blackberry, with an integrated keyboard below a colour screen.
The device uses Palm’s familiar interface. It’s basic, easy to use and features the tools you’d expect from a PDA, such as a calendar and contacts, as well as a basic word processor.
The PocketPC is only available from Telus in Canada, and it’s the first device here to use the Windows Mobile 5.0 OS. I found the OS more rich and intuitive then Palm’s, and I liked the way it synched easily with my office PC and Outlook.
Another plus is the main screen. While with the Treo you need to navigate between programs like e-mail and your calendar, the main screen of the Windows OS shows you at a glance the number of unread e-mails, your next appointment and any outstanding tasks.
Another differentiator is mobile versions of Microsoft’s Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications, useful for the mobile worker.
Physically the displays are similar in size, but by designing a slide-out keyboard UTStarcom was able to make the keyboard bigger and easier to type with.
Both devices include dedicated phone start and end keys, but the PocketPC lacks the traditional phone key layout of the Treo, you need to dial with the numbers across the top of the keyboard or the stylus.
The PocketPC also lacks the four-way navigation keys of the Treo that’s found on most cell phones, forcing you to rely more on the stylus, which isn’t the easiest way to scroll through a Web page. There is a joystick button, but it’s not user friendly.
Both devices are Bluetooth compatible, feature built-in digital cameras and expansion slots to add extra storage, and the PocketPC also includes built-in WiFi.
On the battery side, anecdotally the edge goes to the Treo. Windows Mobile 5.0 is supposed to be less of a memory hog then 3.0, but it still drains more quickly, which could turn-off the road warrior.
The Enterprise Case
Eddie Chan, an analyst following the mobile device space with IDC Canada in Toronto, said before selecting a device companies should consider a range of issues, from what they’ll be using it for to how easy it will be for the IT department to support.
“Manageability is key for IT, like the ability to kill devices remotely if they’re lost,” said Chan.
While it’s important, companies shouldn’t fixate on the device alone, said Chan. The carrier and the network (EVDO, 1X or EDGE) are just as important. Speed, data rate plans, roaming charges and compatibility with overseas networks are all-important considerations.
“It’s not a simple one device fits everyone’s needs,” said Chan. “You need to look at the user and the business processes. Are your people telecommuters, or are they road warriors?”
I like the simple approach of the Treo and the phone is easier to use. But with the PocketPC, I was won over by the richness of the Windows Mobile OS, its easy syncing with Outlook, and the larger keyboard.
The prices for the Treo vary by carrier, from $299.99 to $399.00 on a three-year contract, while Telus offers the PocketPC for $399.99 on a three-year contract. For the more budget conscious business, the Treo gets the job done quite nicely, without the extra bells and whistles.