I recently described the confusion the PDA-Plus market can engender.
Plus? The PDA-Ps offer tiny digital cameras, voice recorders, Bluetooth connectivity, MP3 players, WiFi, built-in keyboards or phones — and there may be a wee kitchen sink in research and development.
This particular model, the Palm Zire 71, intended for the non-enterprise market, has a digital camera and an MP3 player. The problem is I would have chosen different pluses if I had been the buyer. I already have a good digital camera, the Pentax Optio 330, that I don't use often enough. My MP3 player, the deservedly famous iPod, can't be bested. If I had been the person making the decision, I would have known what plus features to select. Most likely, I would have shopped for WiFi, so I could use the PDA with my Tmobile account and the free 802.11 networks in Portland and Seattle. Second choice would have been a voice recorder for memos and short interviews. If I could find a PDA with a cell phone that did not tie me to an undesirable service provider, I would consider that, too.
. . .There are two things we can learn from my predicament. If you are in the market for a PDA, be sure to examine the features offered closely and decide which ones you can actually use. For example, unless you have a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone or printer, you will have to purchase adapters for any peripheral you hope to use to communicate with a PDA with Bluetooth built in. WiFi might prove useless in an area where there aren't many access points. And, many of us already have MP3 players. Second, if you are buying a PDA as a gift for someone else, be sure to develop a profile of the person's lifestyle and gadget history first. Does she already have a digital camera? Is her vision and hand coordination good enough that she won't mind pecking away on a diminutive keyboard? Will she consider using the provider a phone-enabled PDA's manufacturer insists on?
The worst of the confusion may end with the introduction of Palm's Handspring Treo 600. Peter Lewis analyzed the hot new device for Fortune.
Although it has a few glaring omissions — it lacks a corkscrew and an airbag, for example — Handspring's Treo 600 smart phone may be the finest color-screen wireless phone, e-mail, web-browsing, Palm PDA, MP3 music player, messaging, and digital-camera combination yet devised. It's due out later this month for somewhere over $500 from several carriers, including Cingular, T-Mobile, and Sprint.