Angry E-Mails Make Errors Come to Light

Dell looks great on paper and in your palm. So do many other PDAs.

After receiving nearly a hundred angry letters in response to my "Dells misfires on PDA strategy" column (Dec. 9), Ive realized that perhaps I made three tactical errors.

The errors have nothing to do with the facts, which were laid out in the column. My first problem was that I timed the column during the holiday buying season and triggered buyers remorse from hundreds of people who bought Dell Axims as gifts. The second error was that I underestimated how much people love Dell. It may be the only "PC" company out there that has a loyal following. My third error was in mentioning Palm. Doing so brings out religious battles in the PDA world and fills my mailbox, which for some reason started bouncing their e-mail back, with drivel-ish spam.

Brand loyalty aside, the Axim is a fairly nice PDA. Dell obviously researched the market and developed a checklist of features the Axim should have. Dell then balanced that list against price. The result is that Dell looks great on paper and in your palm. So do many other PDAs.

Its the Dell name that makes the Axim so appealing. If Toshiba or HP came out with the Axim at the same price, nary a head would turn. The Axim has abundant memory and a good-enough processor, although the 300MHz xScale is a dog. No one really cares about all the features in a PDA. Does anyone use the IrDA port anymore? Users are looking for stability and brand recognition in the market, and thats what Dell represents.

Theyre also looking at the price, which, admittedly, is attractive. Its a little less than some of the competitive products when the options, such as wireless and additional memory, are maxed out.

But Dell isnt without flaws. The online shopping experience for PDAs is adequate, but phone support is missing. There is no option on the phone to order or to request support for PDAs. There is not an easy way to purchase the Wi-Fi card for the Axim from the Dell Axim site.

Most people wont have to jump these hurdles. And its fair to say that support tends to be lacking from most vendors. Corporations, looking to cheaply purchase PDAs, will find a bargain with Dell. Note, of course, that the cost of hardware has nothing to do with the cost of maintaining and administering it.

So, dudes, get your Dells. Then tell me how you like them.