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Death of the PDA?

Last week, PalmOne shipped a major upgrade to its Tungsten E series, shipping the Tungsten E2 PDA. I own a Tungsten E, so I was curious about the new features. The E2 includes a brighter screen than its predecessor, flash memory capable of retaining information after a battery dies, integrated Bluetooth support, and a more powerful battery. The E2 sounds like a decent upgrade, although it appears that PalmOne hasn't addressed some of the E's shortcomings, such as the need for a separate power cable and the lack of a dock.

The E2 also fails to address an obvious and—in my opinion—inexorable trend. For several years, PDAs were nice, even necessary, companions for many business travelers. But with the rise in popularity of smart phones and PC-connected cell phones that can perform Personal Information Management (PIM) synchronization with desktop tools such as Microsoft Outlook (among other useful tasks), PDAs are suddenly clunky and unnecessary.

I haven't used my Tungsten E in several months. In the past, I'd have greeted the arrival of a new PDA with questions about whether the new features would be exciting enough to get me to upgrade. Now, PalmOne already sells a device—the Treo smartphone—that essentially renders the E2 and every other dedicated PDA obsolete for most people. And with small-form-factor mobile computers such as the OQO starting to appear, you can get full PC performance and functionality in a package that isn't much bigger than a typical PDA.

The PDA isn't dead yet. But it's getting there. My recommendation is that you start looking at slightly more expensive cell phones or smart phones that provide PDA functionality and walk away from the dedicated PDA, which is a technological dead-end. I think its time has passed.

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