I have to give a lot of credit to PDA and smartphone makers. Because their marketing folks and engineers have listened to the critics and customers and continuously improved their offerings, we have amazingly great technology choices these days. Oh, and some of the R&D folks are so clever they invented stuff we didn’t even know we wanted. When you take a minute to look at your handheld or smartphone and consider all it can do, it’s really amazing!
In the process of all this great progress a milestone has been reached that people, for various reasons, aren’t yet willing or able to acknowledge. Handhelds can replace a laptop for many people who need a portable computer. I’d even venture to say that a large portion, if not a majority of laptop users, could use a PDA instead of a laptop.
They Grow Up So Fast
Over the years we’ve all focused on the little, incremental upgrades to our beloved devices. We’ve loved the higher resolution screens and wireless keyboards. We’ve been fascinated by the PDA features getting packed into cell phones and Wi-Fi capabilities of handhelds too. And while we have been caught up in all these little things, we haven’t very often taken a step back and looked at the big picture. Namely, the collective power of handhelds, software, and peripherals and how they measure up to today’s personal computing needs.
If you’re a gadget lover and you follow the industry, the fact that handhelds and smartphones can do most things laptops can may not be much of a revelation to you. Nevertheless, the fact remains that a surprising number of serious handheld users still bring a laptop with them whenever they go out of town. It’s time to really accept the truth: handhelds compete quite well against laptops when you compare benefits and needs instead of features and horsepower.
Right up front let’s get some obvious facts out of the way. PDAs aren’t a reasonable workspace for page layout, web design, video editing, or watching DVDs. And you won’t be running Photoshop on your handheld any time soon. But…
Most laptop users do little more than word processing, spreadsheets, email, and a little web browsing. PDAs can do that with half their RAM tied behind their backs.
There’s not enough space here to go into all the great things handhelds can do. In fact, I’ve thought about this so much that I even wrote a book about it called Lose The Laptop that’s filled with complete solutions that prove the thesis suggested by the title. Plus, the overwhelming majority of people who have read the book (and responded to our online survey) agree that most people could easily use a PDA to replace a laptop if they were simply aware of all that PDAs can do these days.
What Handhelds Can Do For You
It’s not everything, but here’s a short list of things that don’t require an accredited degree from a major university to figure out how to do on your mobile device.
Smartphones and handhelds can send and receive e-mail with attachments. They can work on native Word, and Excel files, and PowerPoint. They can project slide shows directly to LCD projectors. They can surf the Web, take voice notes, take pictures, and even act as an e-reader for electronic books. They can play back music and video clips. They can even work like a little drawing tablet. Oh yeah, and you can use the calendar, alarms, and contact programs for time management. Some even do Wi-Fi and make phone calls.
If you took a moment to consider what you need in a portable computing device, you might just be surprised that your handheld can do everything you need.
Why Handhelds Are Better than Laptops
If you’re still not convinced because you’re thinking that you don’t want to give up your big screen or DVD player for in-flight entertainment, consider these strengths where handhelds have laptops far outmatched.
PDA batteries last far longer and take less time to reach a full charge.
Handhelds weigh so little that you can carry them in your pocket or purse. Not only does that help you if you’re a road warrior who already carries an 8 pound projector, it helps everybody who ever had dinner with a client and ached for some sales data or a mini presentation. Don’t underestimate the power of having your data with you wherever you go.
PDAs are incredibly easy to back up and restore. Imagine losing a file or having a system crash on a laptop just before the big presentation. With a laptop, you are probably out of luck, especially if you’re on the road. With a handheld and a backup card, a full restore is just a couple of minutes (and a tap or two) away. Try restoring a laptop from scratch just before a presentation (if you could even carry all the CDs you’d need).
And then there’s the incredible cost advantage. I can’t imagine how many millions corporations could save by supplying road warriors with PDAs instead of laptops whenever it was practical. I’d sure love to get a piece of that action. And software is cheaper too. Outfitting a fully-loaded handheld with Office-compatible software is far less expensive than a similarly equipped laptop.
I could go on but I think you get the picture.
Back in the 90’s when PDA makers realized their initial success, it was because leading edge thinkers who weren’t afraid of technology adopted the devices to replace paper planners. It was a different way to do things and took some getting used to, but the solution turned out to be better than paper for a lot of us.
It’s time to start that early adopter thinking again. For many of us, handhelds really can replace laptops. So do it yourself if you can. And tell others too. Together, we might just start a whole new trend!
Editor’s Note: This editorial was originally run late last Summer, but what it says is truer than ever.