- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 1999

Handheld handoff

It may not seem like an open debate, since the market has spoken, but there will be several tempting offers to make gift-givers wonder whether the handheld PC they want to deliver for the holidays runs the Palm Computing operating system or Microsoft’s Windows CE.
For me, the choice was complicated by the recent arrival of Hewlett Packard’s Jornada 430se, which is featured in the new James Bond movie, “The World Is Not Enough.” The makers bill this as not only a useful PC companion, but as something you can play with, too.
Their claim: “The new HP Jornada palm-size PC companion enhances the time you spend working and the time you’re not. Bridging the gap between work and play, it makes your life more organized, more productive and most importantly, more fun.”
Well, it does and it doesn’t. Yes, the device features a very nice 8 megabytes expanded either with flash cards of 8, 16 and 32 Mbytes, or with IBM “microdrives” at 170 Mbytes and 340 Mbytes, the latter retailing for $449, which is only $50 less than the Jornada’s retail price.
In addition, there are 8 Mbytes of read-only memory, or ROM, on which applications can be stored. All those storage capabilities mean you can tote around a lot of stuff in a very small package. The Jornada 430se is not as slim as the Palm V, and it is taller and thicker than a Palm III. But it packs a lot into its package: a color display, software for viewing and e-mailing digital photos, and a sound-recording system that lets you dictate a voice memo and play it back or e-mail the item as an attachment.
At its core, the Jornada offers a pocket version of Microsoft Outlook, offering contact manager, date book, to-do list and the like. Missing are easy ways to view Microsoft Word documents and Excel spreadsheets, or PowerPoint displays, but optional software can bridge the gap there.
Yes, the color display is kind of nice when you show this computer around to people, it certainly gets a lot of attention. I could imagine a “Seinfeld” reunion where Jerry’s parents are scooting around the retirement village in Florida, showing off color photos with the tap of a stylus on the display.
So what’s not to like? Well, several things.
First off, though the Jornada claims a seven-hour life span for its lithium-ion battery, I doubt you will get more than an hour or two of actual, heavy-duty use, particularly if a high-resolution color display is selected. Furthermore, this model lacks the docking station that came with its predecessor model meaning you can only recharge a battery inside the unit. If the battery quits on you in the middle of a meeting, it could mean trouble. At least the Palm III runs on AAA batteries, which are available just about everywhere.
My greatest concern with the Jornada 430se has nothing to do with the product and, frankly, everything to do with the Windows CE operating system. Yes, CE looks (and works) much like Windows, but that’s part of the problem: When I’m on the run, do I really want cascading menus and options and oh-so-many buttons to click in order to reach my contact list? There are customizable “one-touch” buttons on the Jornada, but, frankly, I’ve never been able to hit a desired area with just one click. Instead, I’ve had to tap on the address book button at least twice, and three times if another application is running.
There’s no doubt that the Jornada is a very capable, very cute little device. But there is, to my mind, a steep learning curve and a lot of demands on users.
The Jornada 430se should be in stores, and information can be found on line at www.hp.com/jornada/ index.html.

Palm Pilots ahead

By contrast, Palm Computing’s Palm III or Palm V are excellent gifts, each with 2 Mbytes of memory but enough room for thousands of addresses and appointments. As mentioned here numerous times, the beauty of the Palm platform is that the device functions simply, easily, and well.
More information can be found at www.palm.com; the units are in stores everywhere, or so it seems.
I wish I could be equally positive about the Handspring Visor, a Palm-compatible device created by the two founders of Palm. However, numerous attempts to connect the Visor to my own PC via its USB-only docking cradle have failed. Until I can get it to work, I can’t recommend it, despite some very neat features.Write to Mark Kellner in care of The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002, send e-mail to [email protected], or visit the writer’s Web page (www.markkellner.com).

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