Ultra Portables to replace PPCs? Why I don’t think so.


u70-inhandSony’s announcement this week outlining their planned May 29 release of the Vaio U70 ultra portable computer has set some tongues wagging. The device is certainly cool with it’s 1GHz Centrino architecture, 20 gb hard drive, and 512 MB of memory. The lure of carrying a genuine WinXP handheld has kept such vaporware champs, OQO, and FlipStart (formerly Vulcan), in the news for at least two years. Sony really snuck in and stole the thunder from the other two devices by actually giving an availability date. While the device is only intended for the Japanese market high-technology importer Dynamism is already offering pre-orders on their site.With the buzz about these “ultra portable computers” (UPC) really picking up momentum a lot of people are questioning if these UPCs mean the death of the Pocket PC / Palm.Read on to see why I don’t think so…

I’ve used portable devices for many years and for me the first important factor is size. Once a device gets beyond a certain size then you find yourself making excuses to NOT take it with you. Then finding you needed it and didn’t bring it becomes doubly aggravating. I used a Sony Picturebook for a while and even though it was a full blown Windows machine it was just too big to take everywhere. Pocket PCs don’t have that problem and are easily taken just about everywhere so it’s at hand when needed. These three devices mentioned here do a good job in the size department and will probably work for most people.The second important factor is battery life. While 2 – 4 hours sounds really good for a WinXP device, put that in the perspective of your work day. If you’re a highly mobile worker as I am you don’t want to be worrying whether you can stretch the battery life until you can get back to a charger. A truly mobile tool must run heavily all day without killing the battery. Pocket PCs win this category hands down as most devices easily last all day and then some on a single charge. While extended batteries might be available for the 3 UPCs it will quickly push them over the top in our size category, as they will end up too bulky and too heavy.The third important factor and what might end up being the most important of all is something that users take for granted everyday while using their PPCs and I don’t think will work very well on the UPCs. Instant on. You know, when you hit the power on button on your PPC and it’s just ON and you can immediately use it. UPCs will not do this and WinXP’s standby and hibernate modes are just too flaky for constant use. And you will still see an irritatingly long lag between taking out your UPC to check a phone number and actually being able to see it. Handheld devices have to be instantly accessible when needed or you won’t pull it out every time you do. And what’s the point of a tool like that?Comparing the two platforms would not be fair without looking at the price difference. The 3 UPCs have estimated prices ranging from $1500 – $2800. And that won’t get you all the accessories. Ouch. Pocket PCs of course are all below $500 – $600 for the high end devices which leaves a lot of scratch to buy fun accessories.Windows Mobile 2003 SE will bring native VGA and landscape support to capable devices and will likely result in a rash of VGA PPC units to join the Toshiba e800 in the stable. I’ve been using my e805 for six months now and let me tell you, when coupled with an IR foldable full-size keyboard it’s a laptop replacement for day trips. I routinely leave my laptop at home and just bring Bluezilla with me. With TextMaker and PlanMaker installed I can do all my work, keep in touch with email, and even submit this post to the blog, all from my Toshiba.I can only conclude that what works for me is not putting a whole computer in my pocket, rather put just a little more computer in my PPC. That’s what VGA resolution in my Pocket PC has done for me.



Thanks for posting. I use a Sony U-70 UPC as a desktop replacement. Take a look around the site there are a lot of articles about how I use the Sony.


One thing you might have missed … the desktop replacement.
Many people I know take their work home with them now (at least in my field).
– PDA (doesn’t work because it doesn’t have exact app replacements)
– Laptop. Yes, this works but most people I know here hook up their laptops to a “real” keyboard and monitor once they get to the office.
– The ultra-portables. This is basically a little brick that you stuff in your pocket and go home with. Not for using as a PDA (heavy, short battery life). It’s MUCH more convenient than a laptop, and it works IF you are going to use it just as that, a moveable brick. Oh, and you have the option of doing your work in transit, if necessary.

I’m not saying it _will_ happen, but it might. I generally agree with you. Too heavy, bulky and short battery life to supplant a PDA. If you’re doing a lot of work on the road, a laptop will be cheap, and much more workable.

But if you generally do NOT work on the road, and you’re carting files around, it’s nice to know that what you did at the office is EXACTLY the same computer you have in your pocket right now. You can’t forget anything.

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