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Gartner, the IT analyst firm, makes something of a speciality of estimating the total cost of ownership (TCO) of computer hardware for its corporate customers. You know the sort of stuff - the purchase price of a desktop PC is only 12 per cent of its TCO; it costs up to $150 to dispose a PC safely and legally etcetera.

Now it's working the slide rule for the latest executive must-have the PDA, and gloomy reading it makes too for Big Business.

For PDAs can cost corporates as much as $3,000 per user per year. That's right - three thousand bucks. And PDAs with wireless modems can add another $1,400 or so in additional hardware, support and service fees. Looks like 3G phones won't be so expensive, after all? Not really, the costs include recurring service charges for wireless connectivity, just like phone bills.

Service charges are the biggest component on wireless WAN TCO capital costs, according to Gartner which recommends "consolidating network service providers, bundling services and aggressively negotiating contracts are best practices to reduce overall TCO".

You want a breakdown of Gartner's estimates? Here goes: for an integrated wireless PDA, 60 per cent of the cost is soaked up by capital (hardware, software and network services; 30 per cent goes into the corporate operations maw (tech services and support, peer support, application management and development); and 10 per cent to administration (including evaluation, implementation and training).

Gartner preaches what it calls a TBO - or Total Benefit of Ownership - argument, when assessing whether or not to kit out staff with PDAs.

Return on investment is possible for many mobile applications," it says. But "enterprises that proactively link mobile technology investments to job functions and bottom-line productivity indicators, such as sales revenue, customer support an internal operations goals, will be successful at defining a mobile ROI, as long as TCO is also understood."

That sounds like a big but to us. Can't we just keep our laptops and mobile phones? ®

Gartner press release

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