Pocket PC vs. Palm: The Choice Is Yours

Further considerations to keep in mind when you're choosing an enterprise mobility solution

Substituting for John Ruley in the May 16 commentary for Mobile & Wireless UPDATE, Pocket PC Edition, I looked at the Pocket PC vs. Palm debate from the perspective of enterprise mobility. Several people, including Palm representatives, responded. I want to address some of those comments by talking about other considerations to keep in mind when you're choosing a platform for delivering enterprise mobility solutions.

As I mentioned in the May 16 commentary, many features that are key to the Pocket PC platform are also available on Palm devices. In fact, the Palm platform seems to be moving in an enterprise direction, as is the Pocket PC. However, recent market developments lead me to believe that few enterprise customers are considering the Palm platform as an enterprise mobility solution. Two interesting points back up this trend:

  1. Symbol Technologies, a creator of ruggedized PDA devices and one of the top suppliers of hardware for enterprise mobility solutions, is now shipping more than 90 percent of its devices with the Pocket PC OS. But 2 years ago, most Symbol devices ran the Palm OS. (For more information about Symbol Technologies, go to http://www.symbol.com.)
  2. Both Federal Express and UPS recently announced that their next generation of mobile package-delivery systems will use the Pocket PC OS. When industry-leading logistics companies choose the Pocket PC platform for their enterprise mobility solution, you're looking at a strong indicator of the Pocket PC platform's enterprise acceptance.

Of course, I don’t mean to suggest that nobody is using Palm as an enterprise solution. Some of the readers who responded to my last commentary talked up the advantages of the Palm platform, mentioning the abundance—about 190,000—of Palm application developers. However, in general, Palm development requires a specialized skill set and involves developers writing applications only for the Palm platform. Microsoft approaches development a bit differently. There are millions of Visual Studio and Visual Studio .NET developers today. With the eMbedded Visual Tools (eVT) and now the .NET Compact Framework, virtually any developer familiar with Visual Basic (VB) or any of the more than 20 languages in Visual Studio .NET can develop mobile enterprise applications. Therefore, the cost of deploying mobile enterprise applications on the Pocket PC platform is lower and application updates are easier than on the Palm platform.

Another person mentioned battery life, pointing out that most Pocket PC devices, such as the Compaq iPAQ and the Hewlett-Packard (HP) Jornada, barely reach 2 hours of battery life with heavy use. In contrast, Palm devices can have a battery life that lasts for days. However, on ruggedized devices from Symbol Technologies and Intermec Technologies, battery life is 8 to 10 hours, making the devices well suited to a full shift of use without recharging.

For many compelling reasons, the Pocket PC platform is a terrific choice for enterprise mobility solutions. My team and I have already used this platform to deploy several successful applications. The choice is yours, but be careful: After you buy the devices, changing platforms is difficult.

In the next Mobile & Wireless UPDATE, Pocket PC Edition, John Ruley will return, tan and fit from his vacation in Maui, and continue with his Pocket PC Perspectives. I continue to discuss enterprise mobile computing in upcoming regular editions of Mobile & Wireless UPDATE.

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