Pocket PC vs. Palm

Note to I-Managers: don't get too excited about Pocket PC 2002.

Note to I-Managers: dont get too excited about Pocket PC 2002. Even Microsoft admitted the upgraded software, scheduled for release around years end, isnt the answer to enterprise users prayers — though some observers wonder why not.

Pocket PC 2002 focuses more on consumer-oriented bells and whistles, such as changeable skins and multimedia capabilities. It still doesnt let users view PowerPoint slides, and while Microsoft executives claimed the e-mail client could read embedded HTML, one analyst trying out the software found it couldnt.

"In the next version, were insanely focused on the enterprise," said Joel Dehlin, Microsofts Pocket PC group program manager, at a recent briefing on the 2002 product.

Microsoft executives called this years new software evolutionary instead of revolutionary.

"To me, that says they know that the Palm OS [operating system] still in many ways has the advantage in ease of use," said Isaac Ro, an Aberdeen Group research associate.

While analysts were frustrated by the new products shortcomings, some still believe Pocket PC will ultimately beat the Palm OS in the battle for handheld supremacy because it has more functionality built in.

Palm is taking steps to meet the Microsoft challenge. This month, Palm will shift its OS group into a subsidiary headed by David Nagel, previously AT&Ts chief technology officer and president of AT&T Labs.

Palms strategy is to have the subsidiary encourage innovation among its partners, while retaining a consistent OS. In contrast, Microsoft has "kind of sucked all the innovation out of their licensees. The Pocket PC units coming out are almost all the same," said Michael Mace, Palms vice president of product planning and strategy.