January 04, 2004

Palm OS Devices Deliver Lower TCO, Higher Satisfaction than Pocket PCs

I sometimes get asked why I favor Palm OS devices over Pocket PCs. My short answer is that in my humble opinion, Palm-powered devices are simply easier to learn and use out of the box (i.e., are more intuitive) and have many thousands of programs available. Chances are that if I'm looking to do something new on my Palm-powered PDA, someone else has already thought of it and posted a program (often free) or the solution online. Here's not only my thoughts on this much-debated topic, but the survey results of thousands of PDA-toting PC World readers regarding reliability and service. It confirms much of my own experiences and why firms are smart to support them.

Only now am I beginning to seriously eye up the Treo 600 as its replacement. The GSM model is a true world phone and GSM phones often get nearly double the battery life compared to their TDMA and CDMA counterparts. Also, the SIM card portability of account and other information between phones is very handy indeed. However, the swiss cheese-like U.S. GSM coverage maps are still problematic as the Treo 600 has no analog or other fallback capabilities, so it's GSM all or nothing. Metro areas aren't much problem, but I still want better coverage overall. After all, I live in Wisconsin, which has many great outdoor activities throughout the state and I like to have a cell phone along for safety reasons.

With Palm-based devices, I've had very few problems that couldn't be corrected in fairly short order. Lastly, with nothing more than the stock plastic snap-on cover and a screen protector, my Handspring Visor Platinum has weathered and endured numerous drops, car keys in the same pocket, and worse with nary an adverse effect. It's been one tough hombre and is still in great shape. That plus its unique ability to plug in memory card, modem, and PowerPoint presenter modules has extended its use and kept me satisfied for a long time. How does your PDA compare?

Well, as I said above, it looks like the December issue of PC World magazine confirms my Palm OS-powered experiences. The conclusions drawn from their reader survey reports:

"There's a clear consensus in our survey of handheld owners: Respondents with PDAs that run the Palm operating system had a better time than those running PocketPC-based PDAs. The three companies at the top of the reliability class, Handspring, Palm, and Sony, all use the Palm OS. Meanwhile, companies including HP, Dell, and Toshiba--all of whose PDAs run the PocketPC operating system--lag behind this group."

The PC World article also posted the reader rankings of specific PDA manufacturers for reliability and service.

Am I biased? You bet -- biased by my direct numerous positive experiences with Palm-powered devices. This certainly seems echoed by Walt Mossberg in his recent WSJ Personal Tech column. While reviewing the same two new Pocket PC-powered smartphones I reported on here back in November, he even goes so far to mention "the brilliant Treo 600, from palmOne, uses the Palm operating system and is the gold standard in smart phones." He had more positive things to say about the Treo 600 back in September when it debuted.

While Pocket PC's have improved overall, I've tried playing around with them and still conclude that for the average person, the Palm OS is still easier to use. Note that I'm not saying "more powerful" or "better". The processing power of high-end Palms and Pocket PC's is quite comparable. "Better" would be far too subjective, and that call depends upon how close a particular PDA met its owner's specific needs and style of working.

A PalmInfocenter post covering this survey reports that "Palm OS owners had 22% fewer support problems, and were more likely to be highly satisfied than their Microsoft-powered counterparts according to the 32 thousand subscriber respondents."

Fewer problems equate to a lower support cost and lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). For any firm that supports handheld use, they know firsthand how that makes a difference both in productivity and the bottom line.

Topic(s):   Legal Technology  |  Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard