Dr Mike J Smith

Plymouth University

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PDAs: a dying breed?

Wed, 11 Apr 2007

Two interesting posts on Palm Info Center got me pondering the future of PDAs. The first concerned an announcement by Dell, stating they were axing the Axim PDA range and so exiting the PDA market. This is big news because Dell entering the PDA market was a huge deal, marking the expansion of PDAs "to the masses". Dell exiting the market is therefore equally big news and, as the article notes, leaves really only Palm and HP in the market (with a few smaller players). Much of the PDA functionality has been ported to the smartphone and this is where much development is moving. I'm still not entirely happy with the smartphone form factor and, for the time being, prefer to stick to two separate devices.

On to the second post which detailed Palms announcement of a new linux based operating system for a range of Palms later this year. Now remember that Palm OS was spun off as Palm Source to ACCESS who, wait a minute, are also producing a Linux platform for Palm!! Anyway, whilst the old PalmOS was elegant and easy to use it certainly wasn't modern and suffered horribly when multi-tasking or doing media things. Clearly much development has been going on behind the scenes on the Linus development.

So has the PDA death knell been sounded? Well probably yes, because phones and PDAs are converging as smartphones. However traditional phone companies such as Nokia have a habit of releasing half-finished OSes that don't do what they are meant to. Palm has a good reputation for development and an enviable back catalog of software and developers for it. The new Linux platform is supposedly being put together with the early involvement of developers. Whether the back catalog of material will still work is another matter. We shall see. In addition, will we see this platform rolled out to the Treo smartphones? I don't know but its intriguing. So the next few months might be a good time to bag a Palm TX which is a nicely specced PDA and then look at how the new Linux machines perform. Watch this space.

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