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Choosing a Pocket PC for the Enterprise
By Chris De Herrera , Copyright 2003

Revised 2/19/2003

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One major milestone with every Pocket PC implementation is the selection of a standard Pocket PC for your enterprise. There are multiple characteristics to consider from the size and shape to the types of peripherals you can use with your Pocket PC to the post sales support from your original equipment manufacturer. Also individual Pocket PC users may find many of the points listed here to be helpful in their selection of the perfect Pocket PC.

Overall Plan

As part of the overall plan for implementing Pocket PCs in your company, I suggest that you purchase a handful of seed units. The seed units will give you an idea of how well the specific OEMs Pocket PCs meet your users’ needs. Further you can also get an idea of the kinds of support issues that your help desk will come across as well. I also recommend reviewing the OEM and peripheral vendor support as well as their websites as I indicate below.

Choosing the Hardware

I suggest that you review the Pocket PC hardware comparison and reviews right here in Pocket PC Magazine. This table includes the size and weight of the Pocket PCs as well as the types of peripherals that you can use with them. If you want to consider the widest variety of peripherals, I suggest getting a Pocket PC with a CompactFlash slot. Also you may notice that some vendors advertise that their Pocket PCs support SDIO cards. SDIO is a new standard for small peripherals for Pocket PCs however this standard is very new and there are very few peripherals. I also suggest visiting a local store like Comp USA or Circuit City to get an idea what the Pocket PCs feel like in your hand and what the are made of. There is no replacement for touching the hardware since a Pocket PC really is a personal device you will want to hold in your hand to get an idea how it feels.

Testing the Hardware

Based on my experience with helping users of Pocket PCs I have some specific suggestions to see if the Pocket PC hardware you are considering will meet your needs. I suggest testing all the hardware you are purchasing to ensure it works well together. I have seen some problems from time to time with interoperability so testing early is very important to having a successful rollout. If you are having interoperability problems with different peripherals working with your Pocket PC, I suggest contacting the peripheral manufacturer for assistance.

ActiveSync Stability with your PCs

Further the most common problem scenarios for supporting the Pocket PC is connecting to the PC via ActiveSync. I highly recommend that you establish a minimum standard of time that you expect your Pocket PC to sync. At minimum, I suggest using 1 hour since this would allow you to complete a full backup of your data from your Pocket PC to your PC or a ROM upgrade. Keep in mind that some users may synchronize all day long while they are in the office. If the Pocket PC continually fails to sync, I suggest contacting the OEM for any updates. If the updates do not resolve the issue then I recommend considering another OEMs Pocket PC which may be more stable.

Contacting OEM and Peripheral Vendor Support

I highly recommend contacting both the OEM and all peripheral vendor support to understand how the address problems. Further I would inquire as to how they handle their defective and damaged equipment repair; including the amount of time that you will be without the peripheral. Make sure you understand what extended warranty options are available from the OEM as well. Some OEMs offer 3 year extended warranties with next day replacement which may be an advantage if you have users in many different locations. Also some OEMs offer a higher degree of support if you use products that they produce. An example of this is the support HP offers for their iPAQ and wireless LAN card.

Pocket PC OEM and Peripheral Vendor Online Support

I suggest that you visit the Pocket PC and the peripheral vendor’s websites. Look for regular driver updates, how to articles and message boards where customers can get answers. You will find that some OEMs do not provide all of these services. So before you commit to your deployment you might as well know what they are willing to do and what they are not willing to do. Further I suggest looking the websites over to see how OEMs have handled major upgrades such as the End User Updates (EUU). Microsoft has release 3 updates to OEMs, however not every OEM has released these updates for their devices. Further I suggest looking for how many updates the OEMs have for older devices. This may be a predictor for how OEMs will support t their current Pocket PCs when they become obsolete. After all, I suspect that you will have to use the Pocket PCs you purchase today for the next two to three years.

Peer Feedback about Pocket PCs and Peripherals

I highly recommend that you review other user’s comments about their Pocket PCs. There are multiple message boards and newsgroups that are available to provide unbiased feedback about the Pocket PC you are considering. I would suggest visiting Pocket PC Thoughts ( http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com ). Brighthand ( http://www.brighthand.com ), Pocket Now ( http://www.pocketnow.com ) and Microsoft’s Pocket PC Newsgroups ( http://www.microsoft.com/mobile/pocketpc/club/community/newsgroups.asp ). Also by visiting these forums you may find other ideas and solutions to expand the usability of Pocket PCs for your application.

Conclusion

Once you know from experience what Pocket PC best meets your needs you can confidently purchase the units to fulfill your implementation. I would recommend purchasing at least two spare Pocket PCs and peripherals. One set is for your Helpdesk to better understand what the users’ problems are and how to resolve them. The other is a hot spare so you can get your users up and running in the event of a hardware failure. Overall following these plans will help you successfully deploy Pocket PCs for your company.


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