Top 3 Products & Services
Dated: Aug. 13, 2004
Related CategoriesWML (Wireless)
Readers have already got ten a taste of the wireless possibilities of e-commerce and the world WAP is clearly on everyone's lips. I am, therefore, all the more determined to widen the spectrum on wireless and mobile ways of doing business and take you well beyond WAP.
Allow me the to take you into the wonderful world of the Palm OS. This is the system that today powers over 75% of the personal mobile handheld market.
IT all began in 1996 when Palm.com introduced the original Pilot 1000 running on the Palm OS. To most professionals who wanted an easy way to manage the coming and going of business, trips, desktop and office work. Palm's Pilot was an attractive option.
Up till then most PDAs (Personal Digital assistants) were expensive and data synchronization (transferring of data to and from PDA to PC) was too difficult. A lot of hand held devices were also DOS based and not compatible with Windows 9x.
Handheld devices have now migrated from "Contact Manager" to "Business Manager" and offer features far advanced than the simple address book. The secret behind all this has been the scalable nature of the Palm OS and its rapid acceptance by both consumers and business users.
From early 1997 several thousands developers were inspired to develop software and hardware for the Palm OS. Today over 140000 developers create software applications for the Palm OS and over 500 hardware developers create add-on accessories which include modem, keyboards, synchronization cradles and digital cameras.
By the end of 1997, IBM introduced the WorkPad, which is a handled device based on the Palm OS. Palm also started licensing the Palm OS Platform to other companies and current licensees include Nokia, Samsung, Handspring, Sun Microsystems, Sony and Acer among others.
Now the "Palm Economy" has more than 16 million users and 11 thousand commercial applications.
Who uses Palm and Why?
At first Palm handheld devices such as Palm Pilot was seen primarily as a tool to manage information and contact and a new way to showing off a new gadget to your friend or foes. Classic functions such as address book, data book, notepad, to do list and calculator were present in a "pocket" sized format with matching stylus (special "pen" with which data is entered in a handheld device which quickly appealed to consumers and small business owners, as well as the savvy business owners who wanted a touch of hi-tech to match his busy routine.
The Palm OS ensures that all the personal data could be transferred to your PC via the built-in "hot-sync" feature compatible with both Windows and Mac. It has been precisely this "hot-sync" feature that has contributed greatly to the Palm OS success as it has greatly facilitated the field to head office data transfer process.
In 1999, Palm.com introduced wireless functionality for the Palm OS opening up a world of Internet and small access for users and thereby building up its already growing consumer base worldwide.
Handheld running the Palm OS allow far greater functionality than WAP based mobile phones and incorporate many of the features like SMS, email as well as access to web based websites.
The difference is that the Palm OS allows customized software to be run in tandem with these standard features in the handheld devices hence forming an excellent device for transmitting both personal and corporate data (text documents, spreadsheets, database forms etc.) via telephone lines or wireless data communication networks such asGSM.
When compared to mobile phones touting the new challenged WAP, the limitations with regard to volume and type of data are obvious.
The Palm OS and Business Users
Industries around the world including manufacturing, consulting, healthcare, insurance, retailing, banking, financial services and government have adapted the Palm OS into their business cycle.
In most business, the flow of information between various business units is slow and updates at the corporate level take several days, translating into higher costs of communications and delay in crucial business decisions.
Handheld running on the Palm OS offer businesses a way of both gathering information in the field as well as sending (hot-syncing") that information to corporate head quarters in a matter of minutes. Data transfer is both ways and data can be just as easily downloaded to any handheld device from central database servers.
Lets take one real-life business example where the Palm Os has given a good return on investment.
Analysts International a leading consulting firm in the US uses a Lotus Notes IT infrastructure as its back end system. Their field sales professionals often travel to meetings with both prospective and existing customers, but had a laptop and dial into their head office’s network in order to access group databases.
Access to network was always convenient or possible and field meetings often proceeded without database access and limited collaborative interaction with the clients visited.
As a result, decisions requiring head office data were postponed and information gathering during client meetings had to be input later once the sales staff was back at the office requiring both extra work and time.
Another down side was that clients were often frustrated at not receiving critical information fast enough.
Analysts International's sales workforce were given handheld with the Palm OS with checklists and customized menus, and they now capture critical data during meetings. At the end of meetings, they synchronize their handheld with the company’s back end databases using hot-syn cradies (land line dial-in) or wireless connections.
By downloading data from central databases, the sales force is also able to give feedback to clients during the meeting rather than delayed feedback, which was common previously.
The result has been a productive and connected sales workforce, a reduction in hardware costs as cheaper handheld and desktop PC now replaces each salesperson laptop. For this company, the term Mobile Commerce has added new meaning to the way of doing business.
Surprise, surprise - none other than Microsoft's Pocket PC OS! Readers can decide merits and demerits of both systems themselves, but the following figures shed some light on the pros and cons of Palm.
OS vs. Pocket PC OS:
"The Palm OS has continued to have a huge lead over the Pocket PC in Aug 2001 in both numbers of units sold and in revenue. The unit market share for Palm Os based devices stable with 82.5%. Its share of revenue was 78.5% in August. Pocket PCs made up just 13% of the number of units sold,significantly less than the total number of hands spring, the number two Palm Os licensee." (Source www.palminfocenter.com)
For those of you who want to know how branded handheld compare, the most recent figures show the Palm, Handspring and Sony control 81.1% of the market while Compaq and Cisco controls 12.6 % of the market.
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