Wireless PDAs make strong bid for Xmas stocking

Want to be able to check your email during the holidays but don't want to lug a notebook or search high and low for a PC? A wireless PDA may be what you need in your Xmas stocking.

Want to be able to check your email during the holidays but don’t want to lug a notebook or search high and low for a PC? A wireless PDA may be what you need in your Xmas stocking.

Luigi Cappel of Rocom Wireless, which sells a range of PDAs, says new connectivity capabilities combined with the latest CDMA and GPRS pricing plans are finally making handhelds an attractive proposition.

“The most common application is email and we’re selling a lot of PDAs with one PCMIA card connected to new models of CDMA phone.”

Wireless PDA prices dropped four months ago to range from $1200 to $2500. As with PCs, new models are coming out at the same prices but are being packed with more features.

Telecom’s CDMA and Vodafone’s GPRS are now charged by the amount of data transmitted, not on the time spent on the network. Both charge $45 for 25MB of data downloaded, while Telecom charges $25 for 12MB and Vodafone is $30 for 15MB. With both users are online all the time.

Cappel believes these pricing structures coupled with features in Microsoft’s new Pocket PC 2002 operating system (which runs on Pocket PCs as opposed to Palm-based handhelds) make wireless PDAs more viable. “There are a lot of connectivity features within Pocket PC 2002 that are very attractive. It ships standard with a VPN [virtual private network], Terminal Services and Citrix client. With things like the Terminal Services client IT managers could do support from their PDAs.”

Pocket PC 2002 also allows users to receive attachments and now supports native PowerPoint, Word and Excel. Prior to this Pocket versions had to be converted when synchronised to the PC. To lure users from the Palm camp, 2002 also supports Palm’s character blocks so defectors don’t have to re-learn the writing characters.

Although worldwide Palm held its spot as number one PDA maker this year in terms of shipments, it lost market share while leading Pocket PC maker Compaq gained ground, according to US market research company Dataquest. Market researcher IDC New Zealand doesn’t track PDA sales here.

Cappel says about mid-year Rocom started selling more Pocket PC than Palms. By far its biggest Pocket PC seller is the Compaq iPaq though Palm is still doing reasonably well.

“The Palm is very intuitive. We like selling them into areas like sales automation because you don’t have to use a computer to understand how to use them.”

After the iPaq and the Palm come a slew of brands a fair way behind such as the HP Jornada, Casio Cassiopeia and Palm-based Handspring. Notebook powerhouse Toshiba has entered the market with a Pocket PC e570.

Toshiba touts the fact that the e570 is the only PDA to have both SD (secure digital) and CF (compact flash) expansion slots, meaning it can connect to a wide range of devices such as MP3 player, memory module or even digital camera. Neither CF nor SD has yet taken as a standard and industry pundits are saying it’s still too early to call so Toshiba had hedged its bets.

But Cappel says apart from memory and backup cards, most accessory devices aren’t selling. “We’re anxious to sell accessories because overall there isn’t a lot of money to be made selling PDAs, but overall we haven’t seen too many accessories to date that people are that excited about. The main sellers are storage backup cards which people really like.”

As well as PDAs, on offer are a number of phone-like devices such as the newly released Palm phone from Kyocera, Nokia’s Communicator and Handspring’s coming Treo.

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Tags PDAs

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