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I’ve always been interested in mobile technology and anything that can improve my experience on the move. I’ve been a heavy handheld user for years, in fact the money I’ve spent on handheld devices over the last 10 years would feed a small country for a […]

I’ve always been interested in mobile technology and anything that can improve my experience on the move. I’ve been a heavy handheld user for years, in fact the money I’ve spent on handheld devices over the last 10 years would feed a small country for a day. I’ve owned Sharp Wizards, an Apple Newton, HP 95LX (one of the most useful handhelds ever developed), a Casio E-125, HP 620 HPC, and Toshibas e740, e755, e805 (my current device). I’ve given a lot of thought about the new UPCs (ultra-portable PC) that are scheduled to be released ADN (any day now) and whether they might replace the PPC for most consumers.

I’ve posted in the blog about why I don’t think they will replace them for a number of reasons I think are key for mobile users and in this article I’d like to explore what UPCs will need to excel.One of the things that help mobile devices to be successful is software. Users need good programs that fill key roles and help them to be productive. PPCs have been successful because the software is usually easy to use, and allows the user easy access to their information. PIM programs on the PPC are very good at giving a complete overview of your schedule, tasks, and contact information. It’s easy to add new information on the move as you acquire it, and to access it later. Good programs also exist to access business information such as documents and spreadsheets, allowing you further access to your essential information. All of these programs have been developed with several goals in mind: easy to use, easy to maintain, and to take advantage of the small screen.It’s the last goal that I think is critical and why UPCs may not fill the role that consumers think they might. While it will be nice to have a full blown Windows XP device at your beck and call, you will still be using the programs developed for intended use on large screens. For example, I love Outlook 2003 on my desktop. I love the 3 paned interface Microsoft developed for this version as it gives me a lot of information on one screen. But this interface was never intended to be displayed on a 5 inch screen and I doubt it will even work well. I think we’ll find the same to be true for many different types of programs that will be run on these little computers. We will lose the edge we have on PPCs because the programs are not optimized for the limited screen real estate like PPC software is. And even though PPCs can multi-task like these UPCs the reality is that you are likely to only display one program window at a time. So the Windows XP operating system will end up being overkill for most purposes. And we shouldn’t overlook a very important fact when comparing the software of the two platforms- price. The average price of PPC software is probably around $25 – $30. MS Office on the UPC will set you back about $300. One thing I’ve learned from PPC users is that people have a mental block accepting that programs for such a small device can be expensive. Time will tell if this holds up for UPCs.I’m looking forward to having some hands-on time with one of these new UPCs to see how they might make me more productive but until then, I cannot help having doubts about which platform will serve my needs better.

By James Kendrick

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  1. Great analysis. I totally agree with the points you made. I’d also point out the security & virus issues with desktop OS’s (XP) vs PPC or Palm. Not a very desireable feature in your PDA.

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  2. All true points, but think about the compatability issues enterprises face with software on pocket OS devices. Second point, mobile device management has sprung a whole new complex industry not integrated with existing desktop management efforts.
    Now the problem that one of these things is costing more than a PDA, more like the same cost of an expensive laptop,,,,, the initial sales volumes may never bring down the ultra portability price tag.

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  3. Having used the Sony U-70 for a few months now I do believe there is a market for UPCs but a similar market still exists for PDAs. They accomplish different things for different users and which platform is chosen will depend on what the user wants to do. I do agree that UPCs will be better controlled in a corporate environment as they are just tiny laptops and have the same issues. Cost is a big problem for the UPC market right now and until OEMs can find a way to produce a complete handheld WinXP device for around $1000 they will not take off in the marketplace.

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  4. But for those of us who have them, they work surprisingly well.

    Do you now retract the viewability of the Windows software and 5″ screen comment?

    I’m running Outlook 2003 and it works great and is very readable on the 800×600 Sony U50 screen. I have not run into a program that is hard to read from the U50′s brilliant screen.

    I’m sure that the OQO 800×480 screen is a bit of a pain, that’s why I went with the U50 instead.

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  5. No, I haven’t found any program that doesn’t work well with the U70′s screen. It is almost the perfect device for me. This article was written early June before the Sony was out. The impetus behind it was the heavy press the OQO was getting and I was pointing out that I didn’t think UPCs would kill off the PDA market as PDAs appeal to a different group of users. I still believe that. But I do heart my Sony. :)

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  6. I love my U50 also, so thank you again for your blogs because you pushed me over the top to get it.

    I think I’ll own this device for quiet some time (in Internet years). :)

    My only wish is to have it the same size as the OQO.
    I saw someone on Yahoo Groups requesting mods to move the buttons in an effort to shrink the U50…My only wish at this point… Well, I also wish for a larger hard drive that fits in the U50 without removing pieces of the innards.

    Otherwise this is an awesome device. It is a tweener device for me–PPC/PDA, notebook/tablet, smartphone, and cellphone.

    I’m waiting to exchange my iPAQ h2215 and have settled on my Nokia 6820i cell phone to bridge the gap and carry the U50.

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  7. A larger hard drive should be available to self-mod in December. I have taken my U-70 apart and replacing the drive should be pretty easy (famous last words). I would like to have a 30 GB drive in it so I can put all my MP3s on it which are at about 11 GB and growing.

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  8. I was hoping for a 40Gb or 60Gb hdd because I wanted to dual boot and have a Linux install and of course the room for the obligatory MP3s and Divx movies.

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  9. Unfortunately both the 40 & 60 GB drives are 2 platter and thus thicker than the 20 GB we have in there now. One guy I know did put a 40 GB drive in his U but he had to remove a lot of the shock padding to make it fit. I don’t think I’d be willing to do that so I’ll just wait for the 30 GB one.

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  10. jk,

    Sorry to hear you leave on the Yahoo Groups site.

    It’s unfortunate.

    I wanted to let you know that some of us will miss you over there.

    That’s the nature of IT, being thick skinned sometimes and ignoring others in this 2-dimensional medium. Unfortunately, Greg’s the moderator.

    Best regards,
    Phil

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