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View Poll Results: How do you want handheld computing to work in the future?
Windows PCs that fit in my pocket 4 26.67%
Linux PCs that fit in my pocket 3 20.00%
Separate desktop PCs and PDAs, with synching 0 0%
Wireless PDAs using remote applications and data 4 26.67%
I have a better way... (Post your explanation.) 4 26.67%
Voters: 15. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 04-20-2005, 03:57 PM   #1
Bob Russell
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Poll:Will PDAs be Relevant when Desktops Fit in Your Pocket?

I've often wondered about what will happen to the PDA market when desktop functionality of today is able to fit in your pocket. It's not just a pie in the sky question anymore -- there are already pocket-sized Windows PCs like the OQO, and tiny laptops like the new Toshiba model just announced with a screen of about 7", and even a PDA that runs Linux.

I don't think we'll see too much of a disruptive technology in this area for the next few years, though. It's not technology that's ready for prime time with the average consumer because of the high prices, feature compromises, battery life issues, limited disk space, bad PIM applications, long boot times, etc. And it's possible that tiny computing might not ever be as cheap and powerful as a desktop equivalent.

But as we've heard from many visionaries, there's also the likelihood that all the storage and computing power won't have to reside at your computer anyway, whether it's a handheld or a desktop. Fast (I mean really fast, not just the cable internet speeds of today) wireless access to servers or desktop machines, or even computing farms may mean that you really only need to have a computer that can be an access point and and input/output device. You may do just about the same computing remotely from a PDA as a desktop, but with different I/O capabilities.

Most people dismiss this because of the early days of thin client computing. We were promised that you could run apps on servers with minimal client maintenance, and minimal client specs. It was too good to be true. Bandwidth was the primary culprit, but also there were problems with the limited technologies available for web computing application interfaces. All that is going to change, and probably sooner not later. That means your PDA might look just as powerful as your desktop if they are both running applications hosted elsewhere. And it means that you don't even have to sync your data anymore... the data is accessible no matter what computer you use.

Others would say that it's important to have local control of your data. They don't want it passing over the airwaves, or to servers that they don't own or control. They would much rather sync the data than remotely access it.

As you can see, there's a lot of "what-ifs" that have yet to be worked out. And to our dismay, I propose that the way we compute in the future may have more to do with technology alliances and politics than technological progress. But that's a whole other topic.

For now, vote in the poll, and let us know how you see the future for handheld computing. Or, more precisely, let us know how you want it to look!
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Old 04-20-2005, 08:42 PM   #2
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Old 04-21-2005, 12:00 AM   #3
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My first thoughts when I saw the poll, were to think "Yeah! A full windows pc in my pocket!!! Woohoo!!"

Then I though about it a little, and really think the wireless/networking device will be the ideal future. The OS will be irrelevant, as the network will effectively be the OS. You'll only need some local grunt to actually run the applications you access over the network. Storage, etc will largely be irrelevant.

The only real obstacle to doing this right now is the lack of wireless networking infrastructure, but that will also change given time. I like the though of having my pda work anywhere in the world, and be able to run and access anything I want....


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Old 04-21-2005, 08:52 AM   #4
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Just because I have absolutely no experience with it, I would love to carry Linux with me in my pocket
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Old 04-21-2005, 03:04 PM   #5
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Indeed, I agree w/Kirvin: I think there is room for all of the above. Handheld Windows PCs (OQO) and Linux PCs (tell me the difference is between a Sharp Zaurus SL-C3000 and a desktop PC) already exist. Once some infrastructure problems are fixed, wireless hosting of apps will be viable even for power users. And of course, desktop PCs syncing with PDAs will be with us in the future, at least until the other 3 solutions are robust and cheap enough. Long-term, I think desktop PCs syncing with PDAs will the solution that disappears the quickest, though.
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Old 04-21-2005, 05:55 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Traecer Prime
Indeed, I agree w/Kirvin: I think there is room for all of the above. Handheld Windows PCs (OQO) and Linux PCs (tell me the difference is between a Sharp Zaurus SL-C3000 and a desktop PC) already exist. Once some infrastructure problems are fixed, wireless hosting of apps will be viable even for power users. And of course, desktop PCs syncing with PDAs will be with us in the future, at least until the other 3 solutions are robust and cheap enough. Long-term, I think desktop PCs syncing with PDAs will the solution that disappears the quickest, though.
I also agree that the syncing will probably go the way of the floppy disk.
If there is wireless secure communication, or if the primary computer is small enough, then it will be used.
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Old 04-22-2005, 10:48 AM   #7
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Have a look at this related article: Why a PDA can never be as powerful as a desktop.

I think Tam got a few points wrong. First of all, if he wants to look for a desktop-alike PDA, he should rename his blog to "Tam Hanna's Pocket PC Blog". Second, while some PPC devices "only" have VGA now, it doesn't mean they won't go for even higher resolutions in the future. Yes, the DPI is getting insanly high for higher resolutions, but who said that PDA displays won't grow in physical aspects as well? There is still room for larger screens and still call it a "handheld". Besides, tell me one average desktop user who is using "AutoCad", "Target 2003 for PCB layout" or "PODS/Visual Studio."

His point regarding limited hard disk size is totally wrong. Did he notice how hard drive vendors are succeeding in bringing out tiny hard drives with large capacities? Besides, with the event of WiFi, one can always use external harddrive enclosures to stream data back and forth.
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Old 06-16-2005, 05:33 AM   #8
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I'd personally like to see pocket windows machines. Though i'd still want my pda.
hmmm be cool to be able to have a pc capable of surfing wirelessly, plus having the power and memory to run apps satisfactorily too, the mobile issue thing does it for me, have to leave it at home when drinking though lol
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Old 06-16-2005, 09:57 AM   #9
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Most of this forum's readers still haven't adjusted their language to match the reality of the world today. I'm refering to the fact that "PDAs", as such, are virtually extinct and I haven't seen a single discussion about one on this forum in recent memory.

What exists today are "portable computers". They run software vastly more complex and powerful that the basic Personal Digital Assistant software suites. Readers constantly misuse the term PDA and use it inconsistantly. Because of this, the poll, as worded, will not result in any valid results.

Personally, what I want, and what I expect the market to move towards, is separate portable and desktop (probably in a "notebook" form factor) machines that run the same OS, or very close variants of the same OS that allow the same software and data files on both machines. I would expect the portable machine to have fewer resources (memory, HD space, processor speed, ...) which is what makes, for my uses, a powerful "desktop" machine a necessary companion. I don't expect that computer performance and battery performance will advance fast enough that a pocketable computer with great battery life will be close enough to the performance of a desktop machine to make it practical to only one one machine, at least anytime in my lifetime.
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