It would not be fair to say that Windows PDAs integrate with Microsoft based PCs any better than Palm OS devices do since both systems are perfectly good at synchronising with desktop computers. Pocket PC has the advantage when it comes to integrating with MS Outlook and working with MS Office documents, since it’s able to do this straight out of the box. Palm OS can do this too, but depending on what version you are using and your precise requirements you may need to get hold of some additional software for your device in order to do so.

One advantage of Pocket PC devices is that they come with a version of Microsoft’s ubiquitous Internet Explorer web browser. While PalmSource’s browser is perfectly serviceable, the Microsoft offering shares much of its desktop sibling’s functionality, including an MS Messenger instant messaging client, making it a much more favourable option for many users.

Although a large number of PDA owners never get round to installing additional software on their devices there is a wealth of third party business and leisure applications available for both Palm and Windows devices. It used to be the case that Palm OS had a far greater library of third party software but, unsurprisingly, as Pocket PC based devices have grown in popularity the number of developers producing software for the platform has increased considerably.

Real World Applications
They are great for playing games on the train and they might well impress your friends in the pub, but surely these little handheld power-houses must be capable of doing something a bit more useful? The most obvious application for these devices is personal information management – diaries, contacts, note taking and so forth, many of the newer models have audio recording capabilities which makes them great for dictation.

Kristian Karppi said “What these applications do is first of all reduce the amount of printed paper material, and also everything that you need to have organised is in the PDA itself. It increases the accuracy of the decision making, and basically you can be more productive in the few hours you are working per day.”

These bread and butter applications are, however, fairly mundane in contrast to what can be done with the current generation of mobile devices.

If your device has its own Internet connection or is linked to a GPRS enabled mobile phone you will be able to send and receive email wherever you may be. Obviously the advantages of being in constant email contact whilst away from the office are important for some people, but a more broad ranging benefit is that this allows you to make more efficient use of your ‘down-time’. A half hour train journey in the morning can now be used to deal with all of those trivial emails that mysteriously accumulate in your inbox overnight. Colin Holloway, Marketing Manager for PalmOne Europe said “It’s good for responding to emails during free periods throughout the day – tackling short one liners and pointless emails. It’s a different way of handling email to the way you do it in the office. There are some emails that you just can’t do anything with until you’re back in the office and can view them on a big screen.”

While roaming email is touted as the killer-application for wireless PDAs and smart-phones, mobile web-browsing is likely to be a close second. As screens improve it’s becoming easier to display web pages on handheld devices, and a surprising number of online companies have already produced versions of their sites that are reformatted for mobile screens. At present much of the web is still designed specifically for display on desktop computers but as smart-phones become increasingly widespread developers will be forced to think of a web site as something that will be accessed from a wide variety of devices. It is not entirely beyond the realms of fantasy that smart-phones might eventually become the predominant method of web access.

Palm OS and Mobile Windows devices all come with their own web browsers, but Symbian based smart-phones such as the P900 from Sony Ericsson are usually equipped with the Opera (www.opera.com) web browser. This very clever piece of software is designed to reformat full sized web pages so that they work better on smaller screens – restructuring the pages rather than simply scaling them down. It is by no means perfect, but it produces impressive results most of the time.

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