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Buyer's Guide: Palm vs. Pocket PC

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Buyer's Guide: Palm vs. Pocket PC

by Answers 2000 Limited

Trying to decide on a PDA? The first choice that you'll have to make is whether to go with a Palm OS system or a Pocket PC (Windows CE) system:
  • Palm systems run an operating system called "Palm OS".
  • Pocket PC systems run "Windows CE". This looks and operates a lot like the more familiar versions of Microsoft Windows that you use on your desktop or laptop PC. Windows CE is not identical to the larger versions of Windows, and generally does not run the same software, but it does interoperate well with other Microsoft programs.
Some features are a dead heat between Palm systems and Pocket PCs:
  • Both Palm systems and Pocket PCs can do contact management, calendaring and to-do-lists.
  • Both Palm and Pocket PCs can do reasonable handwriting recognition. In either case, it can take a small amount of getting used to.
  • Both Palm and Pocket PCs have models available with digital cameras.
  • Some models of both Palm and Pocket PCs support music, multimedia and MP3 (MP3 is supported pretty much on all models). You'll need to check the specs of individual models to see exactly what features they offer.
  • Internet connectivity is available for most Palm and Pocket PCs.
Here are some reasons to choose Palm:
  • Palm systems are usually cheaper. This is because Palm OS devices often have less memory and a slower processor. They can get away with this, without you noticing, because Palm OS is highly optimized to run on low-end hardware.
  • Palm systems are often lighter and smaller than Pocket PCs. Of course, that isn't always the case, so you need to check the specs on individual models when making comparisons.
  • Palm systems, especially those with slower processors, often will run longer between battery recharges.
  • Palm systems, are in our opinion, slightly easier to use. Pocket PCs use a cut-down version of the standard Windows interface, which while powerful, can offer too many confusing options.
  • Palm systems have a simple and foolproof backup/restore feature which is triggered automatically whenever you sync to your main PC. Pocket PCs don't automatically backup, so you need to remember to pick the option.
And here are some reasons to choose a Pocket PC:
  • Pocket PCs integrate better with Microsoft Word and Excel. They can read your existing files, and it's easy to transfer them across. Palm OS doesn't have built-in support for Word or Excel, but there are third party programs available, at extra cost, that can do the job.
  • Pocket PCs integrate with Microsoft Outlook. Again, for Palm systems you need extra software, although in some cases this extra software may be bundled with your Palm PDA.
  • Pocket PCs often have a wider range of WiFi and other connectivity options. Of course, you'll need to check the specs of te individual PDAs that you're considering.

Of course, your opinion may differ, but for what it's worth, here's how I'd decide:
  • I would choose Palm if I wanted a simple low-end PDA.
  • If I wanted more power and connectivity options, I'd look at both Palm and Pocket PC systems.
  • If there was any special line-of-business software that I needed to run, and it was only available on one or the other of Palm OS and Windows CE (Pocket PC), of course that would dictate my choice.
  • As always, I'd carefully check the specs of any individual machines that I was considering. There are good (and some not so good) models available, of both Palm and Pocket PC.

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