Mobile Devices Evolve

New Pocket PC 2002 iPAQs are enterprise worthy

At a recent Microsoft mobility forum, a Microsoft spokesperson said the company's data shows that 80 percent of enterprises offer no support for mobile devices. Yet, mobile devices are sprouting up at all levels of business faster than mushrooms after a fall rain. At every meeting I attend, I see a plethora of devices in use. I admit that I'm a latecomer to the mobile device world. I resisted getting a device for many of the reasons that hinder IT adoption of mobile devices.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle is a lack of standardization. Users have bought whatever device is hot at the moment, leading to a multitude of different devices. For a while, it looked like Palm's handhelds and OS would emerge as a mobile standard, but the company's late support for color displays pushed many buyers to other devices. Now the market is hopping, with Casio, Compaq, Handspring, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Palm, and others competing for mobile market share and mind share.

Up to now, each mobile device has been an island. Different devices interoperated poorly and had difficulties transferring data to the desktop or server and transferring applications to devices from different manufacturers. Even though the devices were relatively easy to operate, the skills that it took to use one device didn't necessarily transfer to other devices from different manufacturers.

Another problem was that devices simply weren't designed to be upgraded. If you wanted to use the new features in the latest model of your favorite mobile device, you pretty much had to buy the new model. Traveling with devices raised the same types of security concerns as traveling with laptops. While mobile devices' small size makes them a great traveling companion, it also makes them easy to lose or steal, and they often contain email and other sensitive data.

In spite of these obstacles, the use of mobile devices continues to skyrocket, fueled primarily by the same engine that originally spurred the growth of the PC: increased productivity. Mobile devices have rapidly evolved from limited PDAs that were barely able to track schedules and contacts into full-function computers, while keeping the small form factor. Most important, mobile devices let you keep up with email, the lifeblood of most businesses.

Getting It Right
Although the race for mobile device supremacy has been going on for some time, Microsoft, always a distant runner-up in this market, now seems sure to become a major force. The new Compaq iPAQ incorporates Microsoft's Pocket PC 2002 standard and solves many mobile device problems. The iPAQ is one of the first Pocket PC 2002 devices, but others will quickly follow.

The Pocket PC 2002 standards call for the 32-bit Advanced Risc Machine (ARM) processor running at a minimum of 100MHz to provide enough processing power to support rich functionality and a Thin Film Transistor (TFT) color display. Pocket PC 2002 requirements also call for Flash ROM, which lets users upgrade old devices with newer versions of the OS so that they can add new features without needing to swap devices. Not much can be done to secure mobile devices against being lost or stolen, but Pocket PC 2002 also has a stronger password feature and a 128-bit hardware ID.

The iPAQ provides Pocket PC versions of Microsoft Outlook, Word, and Excel, which allow for good data exchange between different devices and when syncing with a Windows desktop. These familiar applications and the Windows interface also facilitate moving between devices.

One of Pocket PC 2002's best features is ActiveSync 3.1, which lets you sync a Pocket PC's calendar, contacts, and email directly with a Microsoft Exchange server, without having to sync the Pocket PC with the desktop. Although Pocket PC still has plenty of room for enterprise manageability improvements, its new features go a long way toward making mobile devices easier to fold into the enterprise.

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