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Windows CEntral (Oct 1998)

The palm-size addiction

It began innocently enough, because I didn’t think I was addicted. Nearly six months ago, I was at Microsoft with our Executive Editor and Editor-in-Chief for a briefing on the Palm-size PC. After an entire day of "PPC propaganda," I wasn’t interested in it at all. In fact, I had already promised the free E-10, which Microsoft had given each of us, to my brother. And, that night, I tried to confess my disinterest to our Executive Editor:
"Dave, we might want to hire another staffer to cover the Palm-size PC."
"I just don’t like it… I can’t imagine using something without a keyboard. I’m a writer, I need a keyboard."
I can’t help but laugh as I think back on what I said. I’m thankful that Dave didn’t take action on my words. In fact, I recall him giving me a "Let’s just wait and see" response to what I had said.

The two-device experience
Robert Brown, director of marketing for Philips Mobile Computing Group said it best: "Both products provide different users with the functionality they need for the way they work." Although he was talking about the Velo and the Nino, the metaphor works even better for the differences between the Palm-sized and Handheld PCs. And, taking an even more enlightened approach, I realize that the PPC and HPC can work together to provide a heightened experience for a single user. Allow me to explain:

At the last PDA Expo, I publicly poked fun at Scott Sbihli, our Pilot columnist, because he read from small sheets of paper (instead of his Pilot) when speaking in our "Battle of the Handhelds" session. I had my entire speech on my HP 620LX. However, I fumbled with the large device and had to actually set it down a few times to keep scrolling as I spoke. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I really could have used the "one-handedness" features of the prototype Palm-size PC I had in my suit pocket.

As a man driven by lists, I am constantly creating new tasks and voice memos to remind myself of, record, or remember some important factoid. However, my HPC is tucked safely inside of a carrying case from which it requires three awkward steps to remove, while my Palm-size PC (in the same case) is a simple velcro flap away.

Last, on the golf course, the Palm-size PC has become a viable companion that records my score on each hole then slips into my pocket for my drive off the next tee. My Handheld PC, in its enormous case, occupies an entire pocket in my golf bag.

Because of these experiences, I now carry a Philips Nino and the HP 620LX with me almost everywhere I go. From these simple experiences, I realized that, despite my need for a keyboard, there are occasional times when I need a smaller device to have my information available and more easily accessible. Hewlett Packard acknowledged this need, when they partnered with Starfish to develop synchronization between their HPCs and the credit card-size REX organizer. And this will become even more obvious when the first HPC Professionals—the larger CE devices, codenamed Jupiter—arrive. You’d never bring a device that size out on a golf course! And imagine the convenience of setting up your HPC Pro to send your PowerPoint presentation to the projection screen and using the PPC to read your speech and the infrared port to advance the slides.

Don’t laugh yet
Before you criticize the idea of having two different Windows CE devices for two totally different purposes, you should know that software applications are already being designed exclusively for the Palm-size PC. Golf scorecard programs, character recognition utilities, macro text input, and application management programs are just a few of the innovative applications that you’ll never see if you own a HPC. And, since the pocket versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint aren’t available on a PPC, part of the purchase process already involves making a choice between applications.

I used to say that the Palm-size PC is for people who want to view information and the Handheld PC is designed for people who create information. But I now understand, that even the tiny Palm-size PC craves input. The small form factor and fast access capability make it the perfect device to discreetly record information, where opening a clamshell device and finding a sturdy place to type would divert the attention from the event to the procedure of clumsily recording it.

Committed to Windows CE
You might think that the creative and logical sides of my brain are fighting over which device I should prefer. You might believe that the existence of the beautiful new Nino has changed my views on the whole purpose of Windows CE. But what it really comes down to is that, while hardware manufacturers offer a number of different sizes and shapes for Palm-size and Handheld PCs, both operating systems have unique characteristics. And, these inherent differences in functionality will render device-specific applications that might be factors in making every Windows CE owner a two-device carrying addict.

-Dan Hanttula is the platform editor for Windows CE and Magic Cap operating systems and the president of HomeRun Advertising.

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