Personal Digital Assistants

User-Friendly

"A PDA cannot completely replace a notebook computer completely, but it does a lot of things," Suzuki says. He adds that PDAs come with one big advantage over laptops--they're easy to learn to use.

"Based on our experience with customers, if you give a unit to somebody and ask them to do something--send a fax to a friend, for instance--they can easily figure out how to do it without any directions or a manual. The Magic Link screen is like that of a desktop--you tap items on the screen, using either your finger or a pen. The units are very user-friendly. For a user to get used to Windows or Mac, they need instructions and some hand-holding."

According to Suzuki, software usually comes bundled with the various units, and additional software and upgrades are available on floppy disks. The Magic Link, for example, comes with an airline guide, an Internet browser, and Internet-connectivity software. Other programs are transferred via serial cable to the PDA by using a floppy drive on a laptop or desktop computer. Suzuki adds that Sony has its own Magic Link software catalog available, with the software coming from many third-party suppliers.

But the biggest consideration in choosing a PDA, according to Suzuki, is compatibility with other computers used by the potential buyer. "For people who use these high-end PDAs, the compatibility with their desktop PC should be a high priority," he says.

Communications-hardware manufacturer Motorola seems to be stepping in the next obvious direction with its pricey PDAs, integrating beeper technology right into its unit to allow the sending and retrieving of messages. It's easy to see that these handy little units are going beyond the promise of a paperless office by making nearly your entire business universe portable as well.

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This article was originally published in the November 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Personal Digital Assistants.

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