IT managers find handhelds a mixed blessing

Survey results

About the survey

The GCN Reader Survey is intended to provide data on trends and product preferences. This survey on security is based on a telephone survey of 100 government readers who on their subscription forms identified themselves as IT or systems managers.

For government IT managers who use them, there's nothing better than a handheld PC or personal digital assistant for immediate access to vital data on the go.

'You have information at your fingertips,' said an Air Force exec in Washington, D.C.

'Multitasks are all in one,' said an Air Force communications manager in Fairfield, Calif.
Not that everything about handhelds is hunky-dory.

For instance, getting data out of the tiny devices is a cinch but getting it into them is another story.

'Input is too difficult,' said the Air Force communications manager in California.

Having to continually replace batteries also was a major grievance for many users we talked with.

Battery life was even an issue for survey participants who use PDAs with rechargeable battery packs. They found constant recharging to be a bit of a nuisance.

'I have to remember to recharge it,' said a Social Security Administration computer services manager in Baltimore who uses a Palm V from Palm Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif.

The small screen size and the middling display quality of monochrome PDAs bugged other users.

One user found a drawback in the PDA's diminutive size'a feature that most users consider the central benefit.

'I have a fear of dropping it or losing it,' said an Army Corps of Engineers civil engineer at Fort Knox, Ky.

A sizable portion of all government managers we surveyed'35 percent'used PDAs. But only 5 percent of current non-users in the sample had plans to start packing one in the near future.

Some 67 percent of future users told us they expected to buy a Palm.

Among those who plan to buy a handheld in the next 12 months is a Navy computer specialist in Pennsylvania.

'It will help me become more organized,' he said. Other attractions for him are the compact size and sheer convenience of using a handheld PC.

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