Federal users are in sync with handheld capabilities

Federal users are in sync with handheld capabilities

Some travelers also leave notebook PCs behind

By Richard W. Walker

GCN Staff

The days of the handheld computer as a mere calendar and contact gizmo are on the wane.

Many feds are thoroughly exploiting the increasing power and versatility of handhelds, a GCN survey of handheld uses and trends found. For those users, handhelds have become a genuine management tool and a true PC extension.

A must-have

Typical of the new breed of handheld user is Carol Miller, a systems administrator at Vance Air Force Base, Okla.

Miller carries a Palm Vx from Palm Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., wherever he goes and synchronizes data with his desktop PC at least twice a day. And using Palm's snap-on 33.6-Kbps modem and its MultiMail Professional e-mail client software, he dials up his Internet service provider and retrieves e-mail when he's out of the office or on the road.

'Since I've had my Palm, I've been on three or four trips, and on each of those trips, I've been able to check and send e-mail like I would anywhere else,' he said. 'I don't have to carry a notebook computer with me.'

To make data input less laborious, Miller dispenses with the stylus pen, plugs his Palm Vx into a GoType portable keyboard from LandWare Inc. of Oradell, N.J., and types away.

'I'm not keen on the Palm's Graffiti,' its handwriting recognition system, he added.

Another representative of the new breed is Michael Albarelli, technical director at the Army's System Management Center at Fort Monmouth, N.J., and another Palm V user.

'I'd be lost without it,' he said. 'I use my Palm as my gold standard so everything goes in there,0 first and then I update my PC using the synchronization software that comes with it.'

The GCN Reader Survey is intended to provide data on trends and product preferences. This survey is based on a telephone survey of 52 federal readers who on their subscription forms identified themselves as users of handhelds.

When Albarelli uploads calendar and to-do information from his Palm to Microsoft Outlook, the data also uploads to his organization's network, where his staff can view what's on the agenda.

'People can just go right to my calendar and to-do list to see what their taskings are,' he said.

On the road, Albarelli still uses his Vaio'a subnotebook computer from Sony Corp. of America of New York'that he had before he got his Palm V, to access e-mail.

But he'd rather do e-mail with his handheld, so he's researching wireless options for the Palm platform.

'I certainly would like to go wireless and be able to get my e-mail in airports and stuff like that,' he said.

Among feds surveyed, synching between handheld and PC is almost standard procedure now. A whopping 82 percent synch up. Only 18 percent use their handhelds as standalone organizers.

'Synchronizing with my desktop PC is what I like best about using a handheld,' said a Naval Surface Warfare Center engineer in Philadelphia who uses a Palm III.

As might be expected, organizing data remains the handheld's central function, the survey discovered.

Management data

Most feds, 82 percent, use their handhelds for keeping agendas, contact information and other management data. And 75 percent said they take notes or write memos with their handhelds.

But 41 percent also use their handhelds for e-mail, either downloading mail from their PC or accessing it from remote locations using a wired modem or a wireless device.

In addition, 11 percent said they access the Internet with their handhelds.

Data collection also is a major activity for handheld users. Some 27 percent of feds in the survey said they use their handhelds for that purpose.

Only about a quarter of feds in the survey, 24 percent, use their handhelds from remote locations to access e-mail, the Internet, agency intranets and enterprise data. Most of those users, 92 percent, use a modem and land lines to connect.

But look for more feds using handhelds to go remote. Of those who don't use their handhelds for remote access, 47 percent said they plan to do so in the next one to three years.


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