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Old 08-12-2005, 10:07 AM   #1
Bob Russell
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Handheld Explosion To Come From Businesses Replacing Laptops

Okay, so right now it's only a few early indicators and some pathbreaking companies considering the leap from laptops to handhelds. But if laptop users are only doing email, browser and IM then why pay all the extra expense of maintaining a laptop fleet?

C|Net has now exposed this concept to a large audience with a recent article, and hopefully many CIOs are reading and thinking about it. The article discusses an unidentified company that made the switch working with Accenture. "The company's CEO, tired of the expenses involved in buying and supporting notebooks, took them all away and gave the 700-plus employees desktops and 'smart' handhelds... A dozen other companies are in the midst of a similar conversion, or contemplating it"

The conditions are forming for a wide scale explosion of handhelds in business. It seemed like it would never happen, but maybe it's almost here now. Sure, it would probably in the form of smart phones, but we could be talking about mass replacement of laptops. Here are some of the reasons given and implied for why it makes sense now, when it didn't really seem to catch on in the past:

* The devices and data networks are much improved
* Corporate applications can be accessed from the handhelds
* Desktop prices have plummeted to the point that a desktop and a mobile device together are significantly less than a good laptop, especially when you consider that a laptop has to be replaced more often than a desktop.
* When the devices are smart phones, it also reduces all the miscellaneous phone expense report reimbursements.
* It's commonplace to see people typing away with a Blackberry. You're no longer the lone geek with everyone looking at you like you're out of place. In an ironic shift of perceptions, the handheld device is now accepted as a business tool, and laptops are sometimes viewed as entertainment devices.
* Battery life on handhelds is generally much better than for current laptops

The article concludes with an observation that we've been making for years. "The big barrier is the imagination of the users on how to add value." Handhelds can do great things, but that is not well understood by the general public yet, and functionality needs to be simpler for the average user. Fortunately there are resources like MobileRead to help show the way!

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Old 08-12-2005, 10:37 AM   #2
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Read that article, and in some ways I agree with it. Though in my experience, people have to be trained to think of handhelds that way just as much as handhelds have to be supported. IT deptartments do not yet understand handhelds (but they do with BBs since they are basically so simple). Also, its much harder to regulate handhelds unless some sort of enterprise lock-down software is placed on them that would prevent the sharing of company sensitive data (or the deleting of it when the person loses the handheld). I think those issues are best served when cellular enabled handhelds are used. As then they could be admin-ed from a distance.

There was a product called BlueDock that was supposed to enable making one's PDA their main computer. I wonder what happened to them in light of this report?
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Old 08-12-2005, 03:27 PM   #3
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With the exception of a decent office package (word, excel, powerpoint), my handheld IS my mobile solution. I've often thought of getting a laptop, but at this point it'd become nothing more than a mobile gaming platform so that I can play ghost recon or UT2003, or maybe even Tribes2 (or 3 - Vengeance). But still. For work and productivity, my handheld is lighter, faster, and cheaper. /shrug/

Now if only the PPC platform can get a good office package to go with the Database solutions that are out there (HanDBase is pretty good, and I've only minor complaints but that is neither here nor there with this thread). The office package is what is going to really make or break the handheld taking over as the defacto Laptop replacement, for the simple fact that people want the option of using Word, Excel and PowerPoint without having to worry about crap getting stripped out of the documents just because the handheld version is too cheap (or not powerful enough) to handheld things... like tables.

Antoine is right though, also. From an IT Support perspective, it *could* be a nightmare. Things to consider would be putting a firewall and antivirus solution onto the handheld, strict policy guidelines on how to deal with corporate data (and contact lists, which in and of themselves is a virtual gold mine to some competing corporations and head hunters), as well as allowing for how to encrypt said data.

The ability to remote admin a unit, especially if the device is lost would be especially nice. To have a remote controlled "self-wipe" key that can be dialed up and sent would be especially protective. Then the only thing would be to ensure that nothing is kept on SD or CF cards as protective wipe measures wouldn't necessarily kill those.

It'd be interesting, wouldn't it? I'd LOVE to get on the team to craft those things and to help test them out.
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Old 08-12-2005, 03:39 PM   #4
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I wonder how long it will be before it makes sense to just pop our smart phone into a desk cradle and use a keyboard, mouse, video display using the handhelp computing power? Then even the desktop PC would be unnecessary for many typical employees.
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Old 08-12-2005, 09:56 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobR
I wonder how long it will be before it makes sense to just pop our smart phone into a desk cradle and use a keyboard, mouse, video display using the handhelp computing power? Then even the desktop PC would be unnecessary for many typical employees.
Did you look at this one:

http://www.projectblackdog.com/site/product.html

From Digg:
BlackDog is the world's smallest Linux server that is 100% USB-powered and fits in the palm of your hand. BlackDog represents a new breed in mobile computing devices that gives developers a whole new way to think about computing.

It still requires a desktop host, but it uses its own CPU for computing power.
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