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What is The Purpose of PDAs?

It looks like business users aren't taking advantage of the power of PDAs in a connected or online mode because they are too hard to use.

At least that's one of the conclusions of a new report released today by Strategy Analytics, which surveyed business users of PDAs and cell phones.

"What we found is that business users aren't hollering for smaller sizes or even more battery life; they've mostly accepted those limitations," Cliff Raskind, director of Strategy Analytic's wireless enterprise strategies service told internetnews.com. "What they're screaming for is better usability."

Which is not to say PDAs like the HP iPaq and Palm handhelds aren't being used. Raskind said the devices are most popular among management and sales people.

"But there are a lot of PIM freaks who use them as a kind of address book on steroids, but they are not using the functions in an [online] mode."

Raskind blames developers and device manufacturers for a failure to improve usability, but says they have a huge opportunity to reach more business customers with better products.

"There is a tailor-made segment of business users with a willingness to pay for services to make greater use of these devices."

Raskind pointed to Apple's iPod as a great example of a device that doesn't try to cram too much functionality but does what it does -- play and navigate music selections -- very well.

With a myriad of different business applications, Raskind says PDAs have to be less all things to all people, and targeted more at specific market segments.

For example, he said content creators, people who need to do a lot of writing on a PDA, place more value on a bigger screen and keyboard, similar to that of the Nokia 9300.

But the stylus interface for accessing dropdown menus is more relevant to professionals using a CRM or sales force automation application where it's more about retrieving information.

Strategy Analytics surveyed 600 business users of cellular devices of which about 25 percent were PDA users.

The research firm says PDA users report strong interest in a basket of value-added services.

"So far, however, a combination of device-centric and network-resident barriers have conspired to suppress attachment rates beyond the initial corner-office inbox junkies," said David Kerr, vice president of the company's Global Wireless Practice, in a statement.

"While improved data economics coupled with expanding device portfolios from Microsoft Mobile partners, Symbian camp evangelists and aspiring Asian vendors all augur well for the future," he added, "no dominant paradigm has yet emerged to transition these PDA users into true converged device solutions customers."