Readers sound off on handhelds and the FCC

Two recent columns -- one on dealing with the possibility of notebooks being replaced by handheld devices (see Wireless World, March 19) and the other on the likelihood that the Federal Communications Commission would amend or rescind the wireless spectrum cap (see Wireless World, March 26) -- 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.

"The week the Pocket PC was introduced, in April 2000, I bought a Jornada Pocket PC for $400. My laptop has been out of the closet exactly four times since then! I will never have to buy another one. When I travel, a small fanny pack will hold all the gear -- charger, folding keyboard, power pack for up to 7 hours additional charge, modem and cord, earphones, and six Compact Flash cards. It's beautiful!"

Is bigger better when it comes to spectrum ownership?

A couple of weeks ago I suggested that the FCC should not lift the spectrum cap that limits the amount of bandwidth any single entity can own in a geographic marketplace to 45MHz.

More competition means lower connection charges. "I feel that limiting the bandwidth any one provider can control is good for the consumer," James Tomascak says. "Take a look at cellular versus PCS mobile phones. FCC rules currently allow only two providers of cellular service in any geographic region, yet there can be many PCS providers. In Minneapolis there are no less than 10 PCS providers but only the two cellular providers. On any given Sunday there are at least 20 to 30 newspaper ads offering PCS service (most with free long distance) at a rate of $35 for anywhere from 1,200 to 2,000 minutes of airtime. I can't remember the last time I saw an ad for cellular service."

Bigger is better. "You can bet your bottom dollar on the fact that the larger corporations are going to have the bucks to offer services at a lower cost than smaller ones, are going to have larger customer bases and the support networks that go along with them, and most important, the advertising dollars to reach more of us with their offerings," wireless web developer Dean Barter writes.

"I find [Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association's] Mr. Larsen's arguments eerily reminiscent of those from other industries where near monopolies feel that they should be given competitive advantages, especially ones that will give 'monetary incentives' to build up the networks," says Kurt Cagle, author of XML Developers Handbook. "In plainspeak, this argument can be turned around to a threat: 'If you don't give us money, we'll deliberately stall our development of the infrastructure.' The irony of this is that the threat is hollow: If the companies in question do not build up their infrastructure, then somebody else, seeing an opportunity, will."

Keep sending in those e-mails, especially if you are considering replacing notebooks with handhelds. Send your comments to ephraim_schwartz@infoworld.com.

This story, "Readers sound off on handhelds and the FCC" was originally published by InfoWorld.

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