As more companies turn to buying handheld computers for employees, IT shops will find it can cost as much as $3,000 per year per user for service, software and hardware, according to Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc.

And taking a handheld device into the wireless realm can push that US$3,000 cost up to nearly $4,400, with service fees and additional hardware and support. Gartner based its findings on hundreds of enterprise customers and in a statement advised companies to evaluate these costs against total benefits, including increased worker productivity.

Gartner also noted that handhelds will be only one of several devices used by road warriors and other workers who travel or telecommute that will require IT support. Workers typically carry a cell phone, laptop and handheld.