Palm resources


 
 

Which PDA to buy?

 Senior Analyst Josh Fisher and Associate Analyst Rosemary Wang.

The history of handheld devices is short but successful, yielding unit sales of over $436 million in 1999, which are expected to double for 2000. Since the two leading vendors in the industry, Palm and Microsoft, launched their handheld operating systems (OS) in 1996, there have been three revisions of Microsoft, and Palm has assembled a device line of four major product series. The fundamental difference between Palm and Microsoft is that Palm licenses its OS and carries a line of handhelds, while Microsoft's PocketPC provides an operating environment for hardware manufactured by other companies such as Compaq, NEC, HP, and Casio.

Palm with dominating market share numbers. PalmOS-based devices, namely Palm's own systems, have historically dominated market share for years. According to NPD Intelect, in August 2000, Palm devices held 70.3%, Handspring 15.5%, Compaq 6.6%, Hewlett Packard 1.7%, and Casio 1.4%. Combined, handhelds based on Palm OS carry over 85% market share, while PocketPC devices are a distant second with approximately 10% market share. However, PocketPC-based devices are making a move. With Compaq's new iPaq product, introduced in July 2000, Compaq has sprung from negligible market share into third place behind Palm and Handspring. Also, Microsoft's recent initiatives may propel a larger user base towards PocketPC.

Wireless connectivity is a near–term priority. The near–term goals for PalmOS, PocketPC and their competitors are based on the need to capture and maintain market share. Importantly, these companies are focused on snaring corporate users with their new wireless efforts. Even though Palm is currently ahead with its integrated wireless offerings, Microsoft has recently announced a large speech and mobile access infrastructure initiative. Besides developing infrastructure, other wireless priorities include partnering with mobile service providers, modem, and other hardware vendors.

Handhelds for Healthcare. For many corporate markets, simplicity, price, and functionality override the need for more extensive multimedia features. However, in healthcare and other markets, the requirements are more complex, particularly since the device must service many functions. Extended battery life and operating power are also key characteristics of a good healthcare handheld, but in addition, flexibility and multimedia options are similarly important. Since handhelds are used in healthcare to address a variety of needs, from e–-prescribing to lab results to e–detailing, different features are required to fulfill each of the different needs. Physicians must carry handhelds around all day on their rotation, thus the handhelds must be compact and weigh as little as possible. In the future, multimedia should become increasingly important, as advanced protocols and other technologies develop, allowing physicians to fully utilize the convenience of speech beyond dictation.

Emerging technologies: Smartphones. Among the many rival devices to PDAs, smartphones, wireless phones with integrated PDAs, are playing a dominant role in device manufacturers' efforts. Although Symbian OS is emerging as the worldwide leader with its integrated wireless technology interface, security, and support for voice and multimedia applications, PalmOS and PocketPC are making their moves to partner and expand their capabilities. As smartphones develop and more services are made available, these devices may become very useful to healthcare, but currently palm–sized handhelds are better options due to the greater quantity and quality of available applications, as well as their superior integration capability with wireless LANs.

Operating System Summary Matrix

Operating
System Pros Cons Comments
PocketPC (Windows CE 3.0) Microsoft launching huge speech and wireless initiative (server infrastructure)
Better audio support (mp3s), wider range of multimedia applications
Continuous syncing
Reads Word and Excel documents
 System crashes
No integrated wireless connectivity yet Performance lag when multi-tasking
Built-in character recognizer problematic
Lack of supply (i.e., iPaq)
 Better multimedia PDAs– richer applications, broader sound, and video support.
Palm Stable system (very few crashes). Headstart with wireless connectivity; wireless Web access for all models by year-end
Better battery life
Easy interface
Does not require as much power and memory
 No audio support, low image quality
16-bit, lack 32-bit power
Less memory than most PocketPC devices
No Java support
 Current leader in the PDA race

Best PDA for power users focused on maximizing basic personal information manager (PIM) functionality and mobility (tend to weigh less)

Symbian (EPOC) More easily integrated with local networking standards such as Bluetooth & IrDA
Focus on telecom integration, technologies such as WAP
Very stable, very few crashes
Requires little memory
Runs much faster on comparable speed chip than competitors
32-bit interface
More extensible & flexible
 Currently, few handhelds based on this OS (Psion Revo is major)
Relatively new, Ericsson R380, first smartphone started shipping in late September
Currently not deployed by healthcare handheld vendors
Many products still in development stage (especially co-branded products)
 OS more dominant for smartphones, but there are two versions of the OS for palm-sized devices (Quartz and Crystal)

Many companies utilizing Symbian technology in their equipment, including Ericsson, Matsushita Electric, Motorola, Nokia, Philips Electronics, Sony and most recently, Sanyo

Source: WR Hambrecht + Co estimates
 

PalmOS-based handhelds tend to be smaller and lighter than their PocketPC-based counterparts. While they have less power and memory, Palm and other compatible third-party applications generally require lower system resources, so battery life on these handhelds are longer on average.

Selected Palm-Based Handhelds

Handheld Release
Dates Pros Cons

Palm III series, (later release:IIIxe) 3/98,

2/00 Good value for power users
Optional external modem available
Flash ROM on IIIxe model (allow quick OS upgrades)
 Lacks internal expansion slot
Few multimedia capabilities
Four-gray-scale screen limits text and graphics
 

Palm IIIc 2/00 Improved color display, good lighting

Thinner and smaller than most PocketPC devices
 Image quality not as good as PocketPC displays
Lower battery life
Lacks audio capabilities
 

Palm VII series 12/98 Integrated wireless connectivity, Palm.Net service

Useful Web-clipping feature
 Uses disposable alkaline batteries
Wireless access requires monthly charge
Limited coverage areas
 

Palm V series 2/99 Most portable palm model, light

Infrared communications port
External attachable modem available
 No built-in expansion capability
Low memory – basic Palm V model has 2 MB of RAM
Wireless modem doubles size
 

Handspring Visor 3/00 Plug-and-play Springboard slot

Good basic Personal Information Manager (PIM) features
Low-priced
Small wireless modem
 Customer service unreliable
Design and manufacturing problems
Springboard modules are expensive
 
Source: WR Hambrecht + Co estimates, Palm, Inc.
 

PocketPC-based devices generally have larger, color displays with better lighting and resolution than PalmOS-based handhelds. PocketPC handhelds have greater multimedia support—these are typically equipped with Microsoft Media Player, and hardware such as microphone, speakers, and a stereo ear-phone jack. In addition, these devices boost greater memory, faster processor speeds, and enhanced storage capacity.

Selected Windows CE/Pocket PC-Based Handhelds

Handheld Release
Dates Pros Cons

Compaq iPaq H3600 series 4/00 Fast processor (206 MHz)

Easy expandability
Good (perhaps even best) backlit reflective display
Extensive storage capacity
Operates well in wireless LANs
 Lacks expansion slot
Supply issues; problems meeting demand
Pricey compared to Palms
 

Casio Cassiopeia E-100 5/99 Many multimedia features

Only PocketPC capable of displaying 65,536 colors
Good audio support
Integrated battery charger
 Too many buttons and controls; cluttered interface
Performance lags when multitasking
No built-in wireless LAN capability
 

NEC Mobile Pro 4/00 Large display

Spacious keyboard facilitates input
Plenty of memory
Fast processor
Good wireless card
 Many manufacturing defect problems
Heavy and bulky – 1.7 lbs
5 – 6 hour battery life
 

HP Jornada 540 series 2/99 Great CompactFlash card that can hook up many devices

Good color display
Many integrated HP applications available
 Applications require a lot of memory, performance may lag
Heavy for a small handheld (9 ounces)
 

HP Jornada 680/690 3/00 Large display

Better input (comfortable keyboard)
Internal modem, good wireless card
Good battery life for handheld PC (8 – 10 hrs)
 Much costlier than smaller handhelds
Larger size
 
Source: WR Hambrecht + Co estimates, Hewlett-Packard, Casio, NEC, Motorola, and Compaq
 

Josh C. Fisher is a Senior Analyst with WR Hambrecht + Co. Prior to joining WR Hambrecht + Co, Josh Fisher worked in equity research at Volpe Brown Whelan & Co. and Montgomery Securities (now Banc of America Securities), focusing on the eHealth, pharmaceutical services, and managed care industries. Josh also worked at Columbia/HCA in the managed care division. Josh graduated with a BS in Economics and Pre-Med from the University of California at Berkeley.