Friday, December 1, 2000

How to choose the best mobile office solution


By Michael Compeau

Well, here we are at the real eve of the new millennium (2001), and you're still ahead of the curve. After all, you're already reading the newest magazine devoted entirely to helping you leverage Palm computing in order to bolster your firm's bottom line.

Maybe you're the cowboy charged with creating "the plan," struggling every day as you try to get a lasso around those wild mustangs in your finance and engineering groups who've been bringing Palm-powered devices in the back door for the past few years. Or maybe you're the lead mustang, hell-bent on galloping on ahead into the future, dragging your staid company into the next millennium. Either way, turning a disparate group of workers with their colorful menagerie of Palm OS devices into a productive and cohesive mobile workforce isn't quite as daunting as it might first appear. A number of Palm applications are becoming available to turn those PDAs into legitimate enterprise tools and make you shine like the North Star.

The king of productivity suites

When one begins to think of computing "productivity," it's important to pay homage to the original, and still king, of productivity suites. When Microsoft introduced its Office suite, integrating the company's Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and later, Access, tools into one convenient package, it truly revolutionized the way we do our jobs. Today we wonder how we ever managed to do our work prior to the days of drag-and-drop.

"Palm devices are much more than PIMs."

But today's workforce is increasingly mobile and less tethered to their desktop PCs. Sure, a lot of us take our work on the road with our laptop PCs, but for many, toting a laptop just isn't worth the trouble. They're not only heavy and cumbersome but require booting each time we need to use them. For us, our compact Palm devices are doing the trick nicely, thank you very much.

As they come out of the box, many of the handheld devices powered by the Palm OS are often perceived as not much more than computerized versions of the leather-bound organizers we used back in prehistoric times. You know, keeping track of phone numbers and appointments and taking quick notes for later use. But with an ever-increasing supply of software tools for the Palm OS, these devices are truly making mobile workers more productive than ever. Palm devices are much more than PIMs.

IDC estimates that Palm Inc.'s current market share for handheld operating systems is over 80 percent. Though Microsoft has tried to knock Palm off its pedestal with its Windows CE (now known as Pocket PC) operating system, handheld computers powered by Microsoft simply haven't caught on with the market.