March 1, 2008

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Get a Grip

Be the Boss of Your PDA

Pamela Ostermiller

March 1, 2008

“Take on the new year like there are more yous.” This is the slogan for Sprint’s new palm phone, the Palm Centro. The television ad for the device features people being followed by a gaggle of smaller “thems,” engaging in various daily activities such as loading groceries, apparently able to do the tasks of five people, thanks to the device. But are PDAs helping us get more work done or simply freeing up more time for us to work harder? Pick Your Poison Streamlining devices can provide efficiency, some users say. “Anyone who’s an information worker – which is anyone who has a desk – has an umbilical cord to their office these days, whether they like it or not,” says Bryan Mannos, president and COO of Critical Spoke, a Salt Lake City-based virtual IT and managed service provider to small- and medium-sized businesses. “PDAs and pocket PCs are especially helpful if it’s also your phone device. I, personally, wouldn’t go back to having more than one device. This isn’t just about carrying extra weight or fumbling devices, this is about usability.” We all have a cell phone, so it makes sense to be able to do more with it than chat. But how much more and which device? What are the differences between a PDA, pocket PC, Blackberry and Palm and which is right for you or your staff? Hoang Ha, the IT director at Trask Britt, a Salt Lake City law firm specializing in patents, says that the term PDA is a catch-all term for all Personal Digital Assistants. These include Blackberries, Palm devices like the Palm Treo phone and Windows Mobile Devices (WMD), such as the BlackJack and the Motorola Q. Under the WMD category, there are Pocket PCs that have a touch screen and Smart Phones, which do not. With so many options, it seems the best device depends on your personal and professional needs. Ha uses a WMD. “For my responsibilities, I couldn’t do my job without it. If there is [a problem] with the server or exchange system, I get alerts. It is a lifesaver.” But Ha points out that, besides the GPS and the slide-out keyboard, the most beloved feature of his PDA is the ability to receive and send email – a feature that can be a benefit and a bane to the worker and the employer. Balance Transfer It’s hard enough to avoid the trap of writing emails all day at one’s desk. Many workers face the dilemma of how to stay productive if their mail follows them around constantly, even to lunch and to the movies. A December 2006 survey by the International Association of Business Communicators revealed that 85 percent of those asked said that e-mail overload is having a negative impact on their productivity at least some of the time. Only nine percent of PDA users answered that e-mail overload is having a negative impact on their productivity at least some of the time, yet 56 percent admitted that they send too much email. The key is to get a grip on your device. Just like your laptop and your email account, don’t let your PDA be the boss. “It’s a catch-22” says Ha, because users want the capability the technology allows without being its slave. “You’ve heard of the term Crackberry? The Blackberry can become a huge addition. People can’t put it down! There was a backlash against PDAs because people can’t stop emailing and playing games and playing with all the digits and widgets.” As with any device or work distraction (game of Solitaire, anyone?), it’s up to the individual to manage time wisely. Simply turning your PDA off when you are not at work is one way to wrest some control —if this is something your boss allows. “Corporations today expect their employees to be on call 24/7,” says Ha. “You are almost obligated to respond to late-night emails. [How much you use your PDA] depends on your personality, your company culture and job responsibilities. But a company’s culture is a huge part. Are they expecting you to respond in the middle of the night?” If your employer does require that you holster a PDA at all times, there are some that are best for the business person. But, first, the worst. Almost all reviewers online agree that the iPhone, offering a great web-surfing experience and fabulous appearance, is not the phone for business users. It is a pleasure device. Mannos adds that while the iPhone is a great piece of technology, its greatest shortfall is its lack of ability to work with Microsoft’s Exchange services. “I think this will be addressed. The day they do, I’ll most definitely be recommending this solution to more of our clients.” Preferential Treatment The most recommended PDAs and Pockets PCs for business, as listed by a number of tech Web sites, include the following (in no particular order): • The Palm Treo 700p • Palm TX • HP iPaq hx2790 • Palm Tungsten E2
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