Handheld PCs Grow Up

As the e-mail capabilities of US$500 to $600 handheld devices expand during the course of the next few months, IT managers will be reassessing their mobile options in 1998. In fact, executives at both Compaq Computer Corp.'s and IBM's mobile divisions are already tracking a major change in the notebook-buying patterns of IT managers.

As the e-mail capabilities of US$500 to $600 handheld devices expand during the course of the next few months, IT managers will be reassessing their mobile options in 1998.

In fact, executives at both Compaq Computer Corp.'s and IBM's mobile divisions are already tracking a major change in the notebook-buying patterns of IT managers.

"The fastest growth rate is no longer in the high-end notebook segment," said Adalio Sanchez, vice president of product development at IBM's mobile division.

"It is now in the $2500 to $4000 category. That segment is more concerned with size and weight and will be satisfied with a smaller screen," Sanchez said.

"Yes, there is a natural shift down. The medium fast is perfectly acceptable," added Ted Clark, vice president of marketing at Compaq's portable PC division.

However, this trend among large corporate buyers may be about to accelerate more than most PC suppliers currently suspect, according to some observers.

"We're standardized on IBM 760s," said Scott Wakeman, an analyst at Pepsi Cola, in Somers, New York.

"However, we are considering machines running Windows CE and wireless e-mail instead of notebooks. Not as a total replacement, but we could save tens of thousands of dollars," Wakeman said.

Other corporate IT managers agreed.

"If we had a [Windows CE 2.0-based] device with color, like the Hewlett-Packard [handheld], a reasonable keyboard, and e-mail with synchronization, it would reduce the number of notebooks we buy," one IT manager said.

E-mail appears to be the determining factor for those considering a shift to handhelds.

"There is no question we would buy fewer notebooks if these handhelds had complete and easy integration with corporate e-mail, especially from the road," said Forest Jerome, director of technology information systems and services at Colgate-Palmolive in Piscataway, New Jersey, and a member of the InfoWorld Corporate Advisory Board.

Sanchez sees the emergence of two types of corporate users: those who need access to data, and those who create data.

"Data creators need a notebook; data accessors do not," Sanchez said.

Although the full-functioned notebook computer is not on the endangered-species list, some analysts see a major shift that will reduce the total number of full-feature notebooks sold.

"The notebook will be a destination product that you take from one place to another -- from home, to office, to hotel," said Gerry Purdy, president of Mobile Insights, in Mountain View, California.

Compaq Computer Corp., in Houston, can be reached at http://www.compaq.com.

IBM Mobile Computing, in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, can be reached at http://www.IBM.com.

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