I have a friend who is an application developer and is looking to purchase his first PDA. And while most would send him off to a lower-priced or recently outdated model; because he wants to do some software development on his PDA, I recommended that he look not at regular PDAs, but wireless PDAs and smartphones. Now that wireless PDAs and the services offered on/for wireless PDAs are at the forefront of developers’ and manufacturers’ minds. Therefore, he as a developer would have a better grasp of his development environment looking at this class of models and applications. Having convinced my friend of this over time, he has settled on the Windows Mobile platform of devices, yet to this point has found one that he wants.
So in the midst of his search for the PDA that would be best to develop on and use, he begins to ask me questions about software development on wireless PDAs. Questions such as:
- What kinds of applications are popular now with wireless PDAs?
- Do programs lend themselves easily to integration with other programs or services?
- And my personal favorite, what is left out there to develop? (It does seem that there is already a program created for everything imaginable.)
So as I pondered this line of questioning, I realized something on a larger scale with wireless PDAs, the Internet, and mobility in general; there are a ton of really good and really crappy ideas out there. And yet most of them seem to be looking to be the next killer application. The only problem with trying to make another application now, is the direction for both developers and users is toward the services side of things. For the most part, people already have all the applications they want. Now the goal for developers and manufacturers is to create services that best leverage the power and ability of existing applications to broaden the user groups, and to possibly become the next big thing.
My friend wants a PDA not so much to keep track of projects and his contacts, but for the opportunity to develop the program that will push wireless device usage to the next level. While he was discouraged that there is basically every kind of application imaginable out there, he was more encouraged to know that for the most part, many applications that should be integrated are not and if they were, that would be the next level of interaction with mobile devices.
Another Side Thought
While I am not a developer, at least not a program developer, I can appreciate the mindset that my friend has about integration between applications. It was only a few months ago that I purchased a used Treo 600 GSM model and it changed the way I thought about how my PDA and data should be integrated with my lifestyle. As a person who takes the oftentimes weekend trip, having my Treo meant that I could stay on top of things just as easily as I could with my laptop. Even though the screen is low resolution (160×160 pixels), I can get to most of my favorite websites in a pinch.
It wasn’t until a week ago, when I was beamed the program Directory Assistant, that I realized how much I don’t need a killer app, but I need something that will tie in all of the applications that I use together in the most profitable way for me. Directory Assistant would be of even better value if it could integrate with my launcher program Facer (Pocketcraft.com), and even better still if my PIM KeySuite and Facer would use my wireless connection to keep me updated of changes to friends’ numbers or emails as they message me via VersaMail or SMS. It seems for many of us, it’s not so much individual programs any more that have our attention, but a set of programs that work well together to make us more productive, and give us a true mobile solution, not just a mobile device.
That is where I see PDAs, laptops, and even MP3 players going. To a model where they are taking existing applications and tying them together to create a new experience. There were MP3 players before the Apple iPod, but none had the iTunes program and music store tied into it so concisely that it made purchasing an iPod and the music for it a no-brainer. It’s only appropriate that wireless PDAs help lead the way in that respect. With developers, like my friend, always looking to do something different, hopefully we will get something soon that not only ties our programs together, but something that further simplifies our daily information management as well.