Looking Down the Wrong End of the Barrel: How PDAs Got It All Wrong

by Reads (8,548)

I was talking with my girlfriend some time ago and pointed out that, if she had read her manual, she would be much more aware of the abilities of her Palm TX . After making that statement, I realized how much in error I was, because I’m one of those types who laps up manuals and resource materials. I actually find them pleasant to read. However, I know that others (read: most people with better things to do) do not. They want something to work without them having to read more than the warranty receipt.

And here is where I think that PDAs went wrong. There is a learning curve to them, while most end users want them to be intuitive. You can see this in many different smartphones and not-so-smartphones that are out there.

Simpler Is Better

Many people will agree with me that a smartphone and a data package is a much better way to be connected than a simple “dumb” phone. However, the top selling phone in the U.S. is the Motorola RAZR. Why? It’s sleek, it’s simple, and it does what it does (make calls). For it to do more would make the target audience freak out because they would have to learn something new.

Another mobile device with little or no learning curve is the iPod/iTunes combo. You have this service to download music, then you have a portable device that will suck that music off your computer. Nice and simple. No converting to other formats, not even a hint of “which button do I press to get things started.” The product and the service have both been designed for ease of use for those that have no time to read manuals, they only have time to listen to music.

So what can PDA manufactures do? To play the role that mobile phones and portable music players have, PDAs must get to the point of being so easy to use that it takes no thought to get started or to move information to/from the PDA.

Right now, pressing a Start button to find additional programs, or having to HotSync is just too much. The software needs to dumb down a bit; albeit just enough that a person  who owns a PDA more powerful than her desktop (like my girlfriend) can be sure that she can get online, send a document, and not feel intimated by doing so.




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