What's New in Technology for November 2000
On the Go and In the Know
What is the one thing most of us have in common?
How about too much to do, to many places to be and not enough time or energy to take care of it all? These days regardless of whether you are a corporate executive or a mom taking care of the kids, there are more meetings and activities than you can shake a stick at.
We can’t tell you how to clone yourself, but we can tell you how to make you life just a little easier. Use an organizer. You may prefer the paper kind, in which case you may wish to check out Franklin, Rolodex, Daytimer or one of the many others.
May we suggest an alternative? Get yourself what is generally referred to as a “handheld”.
No, we didn’t forget a word after handheld because there are several types of handhelds. There is the handheld PC, affectionately called HPC, or the palm-size device and, there are a number of less known devices that don’t exactly fit the definition of the first two types.
A handheld PC generally runs on Windows CE, although some machines are more proprietary and can function in some ways as a computer carried in your pocket. It has a keyboard for you to type your notes, a touch screen or pad, and generally has a color monitor with resolutions similar to notebook computers. Just about all HPCs come with built-in microphones and speakers. This is particularly useful when you want to tell your son you did indeed tell him to mow the lawn. Storage can be added through the use of CompactFlash and PC cards and most use rechargeable batteries with lives ranging from 8 to 20 hours.
Sounds almost like a tiny notebook computer, don’t you think? Even better, HPCs generally come loaded with limited versions of word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software. There are also personal information management applications that help you organize your contacts, notes, and appointments and even receive e-mail (with a few accessories).
Palm-size devices, on the other hand, generally are not designed to do much other than act as a personal information manager. They are very handy for helping you make appointments, check your schedule or find an address or phone number.
In addition to being handy for keeping track of appointments and contacts on the go, both type handhelds usually come with synchronization software to transfer data between your desktop computer and the handheld. This way, no matter where you are, you will always have the latest information on your schedule.
Now that you know they exist, why would you want a handheld? Have you ever been stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire and a cell phone? That would be fine if you knew the auto club’s phone number, but what if you left it at home? If you entered the information in your handheld that’s with you, you wouldn’t care.
You’re at an important business appointment and everything is going great. You and your client agree to meet the next week and he suggests a day he knows he is free. Would you rather confirm the appointment immediately or tell him you will call if the date is a problem?
The list could go on, but it points out one of the main reasons for a handheld – access to important personal information. That may be phone numbers, important contacts, appointments, addresses, a spouse’s birthday or a number of other things.
Handhelds are good not only for personal information, but also for keeping in touch. Most Windows CE machines come with built-in modems while most palm-size devices don’t. However, you can get external modems for the palm-size machines. With these handy little communicators, you can keep up with your e-mail and other web-based information. In some markets, there are even wireless services to help you stay in touch, but this technology is in its infancy so don’t expect to be going wireless without a hitch anytime soon.
Now that you have the scoop on handhelds, what do you really need – a handheld, a notebook computer, both or neither. The answer depends on what you do.
If you are on the road a lot and have no need to manipulate data in the field, chances are you only need a palm-size device. With the palm-sized device you will be able to check your schedule, make a few notes on your meetings and get your e-mail.
If you are a on the road enough that you need access to and the ability to edit a small amount of data, you may need to get an HPC. These devices can do what the palm-size devices do, plus they offer scaled down versions of word processing and spreadsheet applications.
However, large-scale data manipulation isn’t what the HPC is designed for. That’s where notebooks come in. If you’re on the road and need access to a great deal of data, and maybe specialized programs, you are going to need a notebook. While they are more cumbersome, notebooks are designed to allow you to do anything you can do back in the office on a desktop machine.
Finally, you may find that you require both type machines. While you are out on the road and need access to a great deal of information, you may also have business meetings where a compact device would be useful. Proper etiquette at the table does not include pulling out your notebook and firing it up, but pulling out a small reference device is becoming the rule rather than the exception.
With home and office computers becoming more prevalent, it’s only natural we will start using them for more than just playing solitaire. One of the universal uses will be for keeping our schedules and other important personal data. Using handhelds that can talk to our desktop computers appears to be one way of keeping us all on the right track when we are away from home or the office. With prices starting from below $200 to $1,000, handhelds are affordable and suited to meet the needs of even the busiest executive or mom.