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PC World

The hidden cost of handhelds

October 19, 1999
Web posted at: 11:33 a.m. EDT (1533 GMT)

by Eileen Smith

(IDG) -- How much for that cute handheld in the window?

More than you may think, according to Gartner Group analysts. A $450 personal digital assistant, or PDA, can run your company up to $2700 in total cost of ownership (TCO) per year. Handhelds are selling like hotcakes and unprepared businesses are the ones getting burned.


For one thing, that little handheld isn't as innocent as it looks. Since it is a miniature computer, it can hold an impressive amount of corporate data. PDAs, like notebooks, come with processors, disk drives, and e-mail. As the demand for handhelds grows, sensitive company information is being stored in an insecure environment, one unprotected by standard business safeguards.

"These are nasty issues," says Ken Dulaney, vice president of the Gartner Group research division. "The intermixing of corporate and consumer landscapes was never intended to come together with any kind of grace."

Gartner analysts estimate that the TCO for a Palm OS device, such as a Palm V, is $2690 annually. A Windows CE device, like a Compaq Aero, could run you $2790 yearly due to its more complex interface.

Palm focuses on blazing enterprise network trail

What's inflating the initial price to such high figures? Just follow the money trail. Gartner analysts divided the TCO into four parts. The first is capital, such as cost of depreciation when the next latest and greatest handheld hits the market. The second is administrative cost, for acquiring, tracking and finally disposing of the handheld. The third is technical support, such as training and ongoing maintenance.

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The final blow -- and the biggest hit -- deals with end-user operations, like synchronizing your Palm data with your PC. Gartner estimates this will cost $1030 yearly.

All things considered, Gartner analysts recommend that companies buy PDAs for their employees to better monitor and control corporate data.

Newest Palm entries

Every day, it seems, the selection grows. Palm Computing announced on Monday two new products meant to support company-operated handheld solutions and address security concerns.

The Palm Ethernet Cradle is designed for remote access, synching the handheld directly to the network server without needing a PC or workstation. The cradle is priced at $250 and will be available in January 2000.

The Palm HotSync Server software makes it easier to directly and concurrently synchronize handheld products with a network server. It's equipped with asset-tracking and data backup functions, and lets you send and receive e-mail through corporate servers.

In theory, the HotSync server simplifies life for anyone managing computers for companies by giving them tools to safely and economically deploy and maintain handheld units. The server and its $20,000 license are scheduled to be available in the first quarter of 2000.

GartnerGroup's TCO study, however, isn't meant to discourage the purchase of handheld devices.

"You can never look at cost without looking at [the product's] benefits," Dulaney says. "I would say the benefits of handhelds easily outweigh the TCO."

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The future is in hand
(The Industry Standard)
Surviving in a world of tiny PCs
(PC World Online)
Top 10 programs for your PalmPilot
(PC World Online)
Upgrade a PalmPilot to a Palm III
(PC World Online)
The skinny on ultraportables
(PC World Online)
Smart phones: Soon to be indispensable?
IT risks chaos in handheld boom
Year 2000 World
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Gartner Group, Inc.
Palm Computing
A division of 3Com Corp.
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