Palm V is the most popular handheld among feds

Palm V is the most popular handheld among feds

Synchronizing of data with desktop PCs is its best feature; HP Jornada finishes a distant second

By Richard W. Walker

GCN Staff

The handheld computer is steadily becoming part of feds' information technology arsenal. And the weapon of choice, a GCN Reader Survey found, comes from Palm Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif.

'I've been using the Palm V for almost a year,' said Nelson Garcia, system administrator for the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Albany, N.Y.

When attorneys in Garcia's office decided they needed handhelds, Garcia went with the Palm. For him, it was an easy choice.

'I didn't look at anything else,' he said. 'I had experience with the Palm and, with its strong reputation, I went ahead and did the purchase.'

Handheld PCs such as the Palm are making waves on the federal IT scene, the poll showed.

Nearly half of federal IT managers contacted'43 percent'said they use a handheld. Of feds who don't use a handheld, 24 percent said they plan to buy one in the next two years.

Most said they expected to buy a Palm device.

That comes as little surprise, given Palm's dominance among the handheld users surveyed: Sixty-eight percent brandish Palm devices.

Seventy percent of the Palm users have either Palm V or Palm III versions.

Among other brands, handhelds from Hewlett-Packard Co. came in a distant second, with 16 percent of users in the survey.

The Visor handheld from newcomer Handspring Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., which incorporates Palm's operating system, has made some inroads, snaring 4 percent of users in the survey.

Handheld products from various makers, including Casio Inc. of Dover, N.J., NEC Computers Inc. also of Mountain View, and Sharp Electronics Corp. of Mahwah, N.J., made up the rest of the user base'12 percent.

With Palm users making up the lion's share of the survey sample, what is it they like about their devices?

More than anything else, they praised the ease with which their Palms can synchronize data with desktop PCs.

Synch or swim

Garcia, for example, uses his Palm V to synchronize contacts, tasks and schedules with Organizer from Lotus Development Corp., the standard desktop PC personal information manager in his office.

He also downloads his e-mail to his Palm so he can read it on the run.

In Virginia, Charles Jerzak, an Army computer specialist, was emphatic about what he liked best about his Palm V.

'I choose the synchronization over everything else,' he said.

But not everything is hunky-dory for Palm users.

A major gripe is the labor-intensive process of entering data.

'Inputting with a stylus has its limitations,' said an Agriculture Department engineer in Madison, Wis., who uses a Palm III.

Jerzak said he finds the Palm's tiny on-screen keyboard difficult to use. He's thinking about getting a folding keyboard so he can just dock the Palm and type away when he's on the go.

A Commerce Department IT specialist in Washington found the Palm's Graffiti character recognition system, which is supposed to simplify data entry, a bit of nuisance.

'I can't take notes with it,' he said.

For one Hewlett-Packard user, a Naval Surface Warfare Center engineer in Philadelphia, data entry is no problem. His Jornada 680 has a keyboard that's quite roomy for a device not much bigger than the Palm.

'The keyboard is easy to use,' he said.

But he reported snags in another area. 'Occasionally, it will not boot up, and you have to keep pushing buttons to reset,' he said.

For the most part, users of all brands thought their handhelds could be improved in one way or another.

They wanted brighter, crisper displays. Some said their devices could be improved by color displays. They also wanted more memory, easier synchronization with their desktop systems, wireless capability, more processing power, built-in modems and longer battery life.


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