Wide and Crazy

By eweek  |  Posted 2003-03-28 Print this article Print

Looking at the thumbpad-enabled PDAs on the market today, its clear that the best approach is to "go wide." The Blackberry and the Sidekick have implemented compact form factors that allow reasonable typing speed in a pager form factor. Handspring is still striving for one-handed usability with Treo, but its keyboard has landed just on the border of usability for larger hands. Then there is the overengineered Sony Clie "N" series; these high-priced handhelds have gone to such great pains to preserve the "one-handed" experience that they introduce a clunky "twist-and-reorient" paradigm. Elaborate reconfiguration processes are the domain of robot toys, not highly fragile devices often used within six feet of lethal impact with the pavement.
Convergent device users really demand a product that can function well for one-handed communications usage while quickly and easily moving into landscape data mode, like the computer monitors we use every day. Danger is almost there, but its lackluster phone functionality compromises its vertical functionality while its limited hardware strips it of media prowess. Manufacturers must decide if they want to be entertainment or communication devices; mobile design challenges are too daunting to create PDA panacea.
Wireless Supersite Editor Ross Rubin is a senior analyst at eMarketer. He has researched wireless communications since 1994 and has been covering technology since 1989.


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