What's wrong with handhelds?


— 4:44 AM on January 28, 2003

C|Net is reporting that handheld sales continue to slide, despite swanky new models that integrate more memory, faster processors, pretty screens, and even digital cameras. A weak economy and sluggish enterprise uptake of PDAs is apparently to blame, but those scapegoats seem a little too convenient; I can't help but wonder if there's more to this story than meets the eye.

As I see it, the real problem is that PDAs haven't gotten significantly better at organizing personal information over the past couple of years. 400MHz processors, integrated digital cameras, and robust multimedia and gaming capabilities don't do a thing for calendar applications, task lists, or stored contact information. In fact, I'd wager that many of those extra features are actually counter-productive since they leech battery life at an alarming rate and end up adding to the physical size of devices, making them less portable. For current PDA owners, even those who have been using older devices for years, the lack of better personal information management features may be eliminating any motivation to upgrade to newer devices.

Is there a future for small and light PDAs that focus on personal information management, or will we be forced to deal with these functions being tacked onto larger, more bloated devices? If PIM functionality trickles down to low-end and mid-range cell phones, could they kill off low-end, PIM-centric PDAs for good?

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