Readers sound off on replacing notebooks with handhelds and on the FCC's spectrum cap

By Ephraim Schwartz, InfoWorld |  Hardware

TWO RECENT COLUMNS -- one on dealing with the possibility of notebooks being replaced by handheld devices and the other on the likelihood that the Federal Communications Commission would amend or rescind the wireless spectrum cap -- generated quite a few intelligent e-mails.

Will handhelds replace notebooks?

Voice of the future. "I am 16, attending junior college, and am a technofreak," Alex Goldberg says. "I have terrible handwriting, so I need to take notes by keyboard. My parents bought me a laptop for this very reason. However, when I started bringing it to class, not only were the tables not big enough, but the strain of that extra 6 pounds goes a long way. It was just not feasible; so for Hanukkah they bought me a Palm with the stowaway keyboard.

"I could fit the whole thing in my pocket for under 1 pound of real estate, not to mention no boot-up time, which is crucial when attending a lecture. (Battery life is an issue, too, when taking two-hour classes.) I have since upgraded to a Pocket PC, and now there is nothing I can't do with my handheld that I would have otherwise been able to [do] on my laptop.

"My only problem now is deciding what to do with the laptop."

Dear Alex: Donate your laptop to a library; if the library won't take it, maybe a museum will.

Corporate America wants handhelds, too. From the quantity of e-mails I received, it looks as if even the largest corporations are just waiting for the right opportunity to replace their notebooks with handhelds.

"I am running a global PDA evaluation for one of the lead investment banks in the world," writes an anonymous source. "We are, in fact, facing that exact question: 'Can we substitute a [handheld] configured on the high end with a 1GB [IBM] Microdrive, Compact Flash modem, Compact Flash network interface card, etc., for a $4,000 laptop?

"I say the answer is a full-blown yes. Once devices can demonstrate the always-on capability of the RIM [Research In Motion's Blackberry device] with the power to view PowerPoint, Word, Excel, e-mail and show tight desktop integration, they will be an unstoppable combo in the corporate space."

For small businesses, readers find handhelds a lot less expensive than laptops.

Traveling light. "I am a sole proprietor, computer trainer, and consultant," writes Sherry Zorzi of Zorzi Consulting. "For the last 11 years, I have been in the habit of replacing my laptop every two years; the last one I bought was approximately $3,200.

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