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Pocket Pals

Get personal with a PDA

Personal Digital Assistants: a big name for some small devices. You can call them whatever you want--palm PCs, handheld devices, Bob or Sally. We'll call them PDAs. They've come a long way since the original Newton, baby. Whether you're first on the list for a model with all the bells and whistles or just looking to keep track of your contacts while away from your desk, these miniwonders can really take care of business.

Just a few years ago, your PDA choices involved either an Apple Newton or a Rolodex, but the features and price options have since exploded. Microsoft has busily propagated its Windows operating system to include Windows CE for handhelds, kind of a super-low-cal Windows 95. Most handhelds come loaded with this, the main advantage being easy synching with your Windows desktop OS. 3Com's Palm Computing is the spoiler in Windowsville: Its Palm OS is compatible with both PCs and Macs.

PDAs started coming out in color just this year. Color makes things pretty, but in a computer that's running on batteries, it can be a big power drain. You'll have to weigh the aesthetics against power concerns and whether you really need to see Aunt Edna's phone number in some shade of puce. After all, despite recent leaps in PDA capabilities, including wireless Internet access, their primary functions are as organizers and notepads. What they all have in common is a touch-screen display for using either your finger or a stylus to control the PDA.

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This article was originally published in the November 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Pocket Pals.

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