Built-in Window Mobile 2003 Capabilities vs.
Palm OS 5.2.1 (aka Garnet)
OK, so I sorta expected Windows on a handheld
to network with a Windows PC. I of course expected the VGA screen
to be better than great. But in just a week, I’ve found quite
a number of capabilities built into WM2003 that I had to buy third-party
software or hardware to get on the T3. Here’s a quick table
with what I’ve found so far, keeping in mind that there are
usually multiple Palm solutions available:
Axim/WM 2003 Capability
Palm T3 Solution
WiFi SDIO Card
Enfora Wireless Portfolio
the handheld side only)
Desktop Edition (from both sides)
VPN Support (Odyssey client)
Transfer files to/from PC directly
through USB connection (RAM and cards)
2 (card data only)
Accesses free FlashROM as if
it were another storage card
for read-only files, not like another card)
System Information Utility
In your dreams
to higher capacity battery
Don’t get me started…
Add to the list the following Pocket PC
capabilities in daily operations:
- Reads native Adobe PDF files with Pocket
PC Adobe Reader (no conversion required, though it will convert
untagged PDFs if you use ActiveSync to transfer the files to
internal memory or a card rather than placing them on a storage
card using a card reader). Renders these files accurately.
- Reads/writes/modifies native Microsoft Office
documents using ActiveSync conversion for files stored in RAM.
Can open/read/write in native format files on an SD or CF card,
albeit not supporting/preserving all desktop formatting, just
the basics (Palm apps like Docs to Go will read and write them
on a card, but must convert them on the handheld to modify them
in RAM—not a fast process)
- Large Clipboard (Palm limited to 1K)
- Help is available for almost every app through
the central Help program (overall, Palm apps have a weak history
for on-device help)
Palm Advantages so far:
- Better overall compatibility with the desktop
MS Office Suite. Palm has a number of good Office solutions,
but TextMaker is the only full-featured word processor for Pocket
PCs and there are no suites like Docs
to Go Premium or MobiSystems Office Suite. The built-in WM2003
Office apps will eat formatting and features they don’t
convert, and those are many. Frankly, Microsoft should be embarrassed
at this state of affairs.
- Apps are smaller and generally less expensive,
except for networking
- More freeware available and generally more
shareware, though the latter gap seems to be closing
I leave the Axim’s CPU speed set to Auto.
That allows the device to regulate the CPU speed based on workload
in order to save battery life. Thus, it isn’t running at
624MH z all the time. That said, most common apps load very quickly—just
as quickly as most Palm apps. Large apps like TextMaker, Pocket
Informant, and NetFront take a few seconds to load initially
but except for TextMaker are snappy once in the app. An old criticism
of Pocket PC’s was that they were sluggish compared to Palms,
and I believe that was true in the past. Overall, I haven’t
noticed a difference in user-experienced speed between the T3 and
What about all that data I have on my
T3? It turns out that most of my major apps on the T3 have Pocket
PC counterparts. First and most important was MessagEase for
input. Those that read the same data files or import them include
the Olive Tree
Bible Reader, iSilo, Beiks dictionary
reader, and everything that reads desktop-format files. Others
have PPC versions with their own data file formats, like Tarascon
Pharmacopoeia, Skyscape references,
and MSDict dictionaries.
Some companies will actually transfer your registrations to the
new platform if you are truly switching. Replacing software can
quickly grow expensive, and should be carefully planned before
making any rash decisions.
Of course, there are always favorites on both
sides that don’t have versions for the other. My beloved Datebk5,
Shadow Plan, Star Pilot,
and HandyShopper fall
into this heart-breaking category.
PIM Data Transfer
This proved to be a great news story--a real
non-issue. MS Outlook provides the common bond. I simply synchroni
zed my T3 with Outlook (I used Chapura’s
Pocket Mirror Pro XT but you can use Palm Desktop’s included
Outlook sync conduits) before installing the Pocket PC’s
ActiveSync software. ActiveSync picked up all the T3 data in Outlook
and put it on the Axim on initial install. Now I sync both the
T3 and Axim with Outlook every day to keep them both current. I
can make changes and additions on either device and the other will
catch up on the next sync. Very nice.
It seems that Palm apps and Pocket PC
apps are designed under fundamentally different concepts. Palm
apps seem to be task-oriented. In other words, each app has its
own unique design that centers on its underlying function—the
interface follows the function. This makes the apps very efficient
and easy to operate even though they tend to look somewhat different.
However, complex applications can be difficult to learn because
there is no common base from which to work.
Pocket PC apps, on the other hand, seem to be
interface-oriented. In other words, they try to conform to a pre-determined
interface design for uniformity across applications (think Borg).
The theory is that you only have to learn one common set of menus
and structures to use a large number of programs well. Every graphical
interface on the desktop operates the same way. In practice, though,
it doesn’t always work that well. It forces an overhead structure
that may not be efficient for the task, or may even make unique
tasks more difficult for the user to accomplish because its unique
functions don’t fit neatly into the approved menu bar items.
In the last week, I’ve noticed that the departures from the
Windows interface guidance stands about as common on the Pocket
PCs than on the desktop.
First Week Bottom Line
I’ve learned an incredible amount
in just one week. At this point, I’ve come to the conclusion
that Pocket PC isn’t the dark side—it’s just
another side. Hardware advances and hard work by Microsoft and
their partners have brought the Pocket PC to a point of roughly
equal stability and overall performance with Palm OS devices.
Out of the box, their networking capability and built-in WiFi
and VGA displays give them a large advantage amongst the growing
number of home WiFi networkers and travelers requiring mobile
access to the internet and/or home/office networks. On the other
hand, if a user only needs to track schedules and contacts, or
even work with MS Office-compatible files, a Palm might be a
more efficient solution in both cost and complexity.
I didn’t start down this road with an
eye to change platforms. However, that seems like a real possibility
at this point. Nothing is certain, so stick around for Part II
of the journey next week.
Part 2 …
Last week Tanker Bob Took a Hard Look at the Palm and Pocket PC
Platforms and Evolution