Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Carry Your Office in the Palm of Your Hand; a Pocket-Size Device Is Your Computer When You're on the Road

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Carry Your Office in the Palm of Your Hand; a Pocket-Size Device Is Your Computer When You're on the Road

Article excerpt

With today's technology, not only can you take your "office" with you when you travel, but you also can stash it conveniently in your pocket or purse. Welcome to the world of PDAs--personal digital assistants. These handheld devices can perform many of your computer tasks and some even do double duty as cell phones.

This article is for would-be PDA buyers, many of whom feel so overwhelmed by the swift advances in PDA technology they can't decide which device best meets their needs. After all, new PDA products with advanced features are introduced so frequently that even technology buffs find it difficult to stay in the know. This guide fills that information gap and helps shoppers determine which is the right product for them.

The world of PDAs is divided into five basic groups: Palm, Pocket PC, Blackberry, smartphones and combination devices (which function both as PDAs and cell phones). We'll explain what they do, what they do well and what they don't do so well.

The first PDAs to capture the market were Palms and Pocket PCs. In their early incarnations, Palms were designed to provide just the basic functions: address book, calendar, to-do list and note pad. The designers of Pocket PCs, on the other hand, engineered them to emulate a Windows desktop computer; so, in addition to the above basic functions, they added high-resolution screens, multimedia and built-in Microsoft applications. In recent years, however, both products have added features that make them essentially equal in function and capability.

The third PDA category, the Blackberry, was designed primarily as a tool for wireless access to e mail and the Internet, as a phone and for basic contact management, Outlook integration and calendaring. A few Blackberry models don't work as cell phones. In general, Blackberries provide fewer bells and whistles than a Palm or Pocket PC. For in stance, Blackberry users can't create Microsoft office documents, play MP3 files, make a voice recording or play games. Also, they have limited ability to add software to expand functions.

The fourth option is the smartphone--a device that takes a traditional cell phone and enhances it with the Pocket PC or Palm operating system so it also can function as a PDA.

The fifth category is the PDA phone--a device that combines a traditional PDA (including Palms and Pocket PCs) with cellular phone technology. With such a device users can wirelessly access e-mail and the Internet, manage calendars and address books and record notes, among other things.

Currently, no one device offers the perfect blend of form and function. The smartphone is a bit larger than a regular cell phone, but the screen is smaller than a typical PDA and data entry is much less efficient in most cases. Moreover, sonic manufacturers allow their phones to work only on their own wireless network. With a PDA phone, data input is convenient but the phone can be bulky, making it difficult to carry and to hold to one's ear. While microphones and earpieces are available, it's still not as convenient or as sleek as a typical cell phone.

If you're considering acquiring one of these devices, be aware of the following advisories.

ENTERING DATA

Most Palms and Pocket PCs require a stylus on a touch screen to input data, although a few models have keypads. However, typing on such a keypad can be a bit awkward because you can use only your thumbs. Palm's Graffiti software recognizes your handwriting--or a unique shorthand alphabet notation. It takes a bit of practice to learn, but once mastered, it's faster than traditional handwriting.

Pocket PCs are more sophisticated: They use letter-recognition technology that allows users to write conventional letters and numbers on the screen, Rather than users' having to train themselves to write a unique script, the Pocket PC must be trained to recognize individuals' handwriting. Another option for Palms and Pocket PCs is a portable keyboard, which, unlike a tiny, thumbs-only keypad, unfolds into a full-size keypad and attaches to the PDA, making typing fast and easy. …

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