Wednesday, February 18, 2004

The future of mobile computing

I'm a regular visitor to Gizmodo, so I read with interest this article about one pundit's views on where increased storage will take mobile technology. I agree that greater storage on cellphones and PDAs will lead to more applications and hardware innovations to take advantage of the extra room. But I don't agree that it's a good thing. For the most part, I like a simple cell phone that just keeps track of my numbers and maybe a ringtone or two. I still don't see why cameras or video games need to be bundled into the cellular package. Just because I can keep my PowerPoint presentations on my PDA doesn't mean that it's the best tool to show them.

Speaking of new mobile technology, this seems as good a time as any to reveal that despite my love of simple cell phones, for the past few weeks I've been using a Treo 600 provided by my office as my phone and PDA. I wasn't as hot to get one as most people seemed to be, but when one of the pilot program units found its way into my possession, I didn't hesitate long to give it a try. Four years ago I bought a Palm Vx and used it lovingly for two years. But when I got an HP/Compaq iPaq from the office in December 2002, I made the PocketPC switch. Now I'm back to the Palm OS, and loving every minute of it. While the Treo 600 offers a web browser and rudimentary "push" e-mail functionality, I'm cheap, and since I don't pay for the data service on my AT&T account, I'm only using it as a phone/PDA combo. Even so, the phone sounds just as good as my Nokia 3595, and no one I've talked to has noticed a difference. I have a web browser on my Blackberry (data service paid for by my office), so I haven't really needed the browser on the Treo yet. I had to buy a $10 stereo headphone adapter, but once I got it I was able to listen to MP3s on the Treo just as I did with the iPaq, using my 256 MB Sandisk SD memory card for storage. The keyboard on the Treo is smaller than the Blackberry's, and I've had a little trouble with it, so I'm glad not to be using the Treo for my e-mail. I was able to reload almost all of the old apps I used on my Palm Vx and upgrade the ones that didn't run on the newer Treo OS. The built-in camera is nearly useless to me, as I already have a much more capable digital camera with important features like a flash and zoom lens. But I can see where people might want to use it, and it takes acceptable pictures for a cellphone camera.

Overall, I'm happy with my new toy, and so far my employer doesn't seem to mind me using it, so I'm going to keep it as long as they'll let me. I still don't see a need for an all-in-one gadget in my life, but the Treo is beginning to convince me I'm wrong. I know for sure that I'm keeping my Nokia phone for the few times I won't need the expensive and possibly fragile Treo. When I go cycling, for example, there's no way I'm putting the Treo in my Camelbak or saddlebag. And it's always good to have a backup cellphone just in case.

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