Friday, June 5, 2009

PDA Migration

Long ago my life started to get complicated enough that I started having to keep track of things on paper because my brain wasn't going to hold enough information anymore. I started with a simple paper organizer and then moved on to more involved ones as time went on like the Franklin.

In the early 1990's I purchased a Sharp Zaurus. Being a computer-guy it seemed appropriate for me to keep my data in an electronic format. I had to pay extra to get a serial cable interface so I could back up my data. It ran on AAA batteries and was super cool (to me, at least).

My the mid-late 90's, though still working, the Zaurus was getting passe so I moved onto a Palm Pilot. Again this was super cool. The device was designed for synchronization so it was very handy to move data to and fro, plus there was a programming kit so I could dabble with software for it.

This was followed by another Palm, then by a Sony Palm incarnation called the Clie (very nice). For a brief time I had a Palm VII, one of the first wireless PDAs. The data plan was way too expensive (data was charged by BYTE transferred). The latest (and probably last) Palm I got was the Zire, the low cost color version of the venerable Palm PDA. This mainly was my calendar, contact list and password storage device.

For a while, I had a laptop and largely used it for my information management needs. Then it died and I could not justify buying another one in light of my other responsibilities.

My work in the past has provided me with Blackberry or Windows Mobile devices. In all cases I have used them but never trust much to them, largely because they were provided by my employer and I keep my personal and professional items separate.

Now, my Zire is starting to fail. The digitizer is hit or miss and the screen is starting to go. Once a week or so I have to do a hard reset to make it go. Palm now no longer makes PDAs so I find myself at a crossroads. I want a small electronic device for handling my personal information, but the market only seems to be producing phones to do this, and I don't want a monthly bill.

I believe that now I want an iPod Touch. I had three other MP3 players before I got my iPod Nano a couple of years ago and I have to say hands down that the iPod is the superior experience. As a computer guy I was able to figure out my other devices but the iPod was just that much better. The iPod Touch is much larger and seems better suited to handling my needs for information management. There are a couple of sticking points.

One is price. At over two hundred dollars (as of this writing) it is not something that I can trivially purchase. It starts to get me into the neighborhood of buying a netbook instead. Admittedly the netbook would not have the portability of the iPod Touch, but it would have other strengths (like a keyboard) to make up for it.

Another is software. I have Palm OS software that I've used for years that will no longer be usable. I have to take that into account also.

For now I will limp the Zire along and see what Apple comes up with on Monday at the WWDC and go from there.

It's been interesting watching the rise and fall of each of the form factors and companies. From Sharp (still around but out of the PDA business) to Palm (with a history of mis-steps and frittering away their huge lead) to Apple (whose Newton venture paved the way for more functional PDAs). It will be interesting to see where things progress to. There are rumors that Apple will expand the iPod Touch into a small tablet and effectively re-launch the Newton. I'll be paying close attention.

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