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M-Systems, Palm tie-in redefines PDA

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Analysis What's mobile? People, device or the data? Taking data mobile can be achieved with fast networks. But the more rich the data content, the faster the network must be. So we go from infrared to GSM mobile phones to 3G and wireless LAN. But in the final analysis someone must pay for each megabyte transmitted, writes Rob Bamforth of Bloor Research.

The problem for multimedia content is the creative and entertainment value of Nicole Kidman's smile for three extra seconds doesn't equal the extra cost of shipping it over the network. Cost and value are not proportional in the multimedia data world. However, rich multimedia content needn't always be for pure entertainment. Many enterprise applications can include digital photographic images, short instructive videos, or a spoken soundtrack. Sometimes it's better to carry rich content than to transmit it.

Hence the growing importance of storage. Mobile data storage is becoming very big business, and will become critical for mobile devices that plan to deliver rich content or multimedia data.

So the announcement by Flash data company M-Systems and PalmSource, the company behind the widely licensed PDA operating system, the Palm OS, is very important for those wishing to carry rich content in their pockets.

Essentially, support for M-Systems' DiskOnChip family of storage products will be pre-integrated into the Palm OS platform through the Palm OS Ready Program. M-Systems DiskOnChip technology provides storage capacities of up to 1GB through a high performance in-built memory controller. The architecture is designed to deliver high throughput at low power and prevent loss in the event of power failure. This makes it ideal for the portable multimedia requirements on a handheld instant on device whose batteries must last for at least a full day.

Applications there are already aplenty. With the explosive growth of digital photography for personal use as well as business applications from estate agents to insurance, the need to be able to carry and access hundreds of high definition images is widespread.

Then there's the growing interest in portable electronic reading material. Palm Digital Media, a subsidiary of PalmSource, has over 10,000 titles available as eBooks. Adobe also offers a PDF reader for Palm OS based devices. There's also MP3. It doesn't all have to be music, though. Recorded messages, travel guides and instructions could all be pre-recorded and carried.

Some have said that the day of the PDA is over. Some believe that smarter phones, and smaller, power-optimised laptops will squeeze it out. It's true that it's traditional role as a portable diary, contact manager and to do list could be performed by a growing band of mobile devices. However, PalmSource and other members of the Palm ecosystem have recognised there is a place for the PDA. It's not simply an electronic diary. It's a family of pocket-able devices for accessing and using multimedia content.

Not dependent on having fast network access, but capable of using it if available. Capable of using large amounts of data, without having to be carried over a shoulder or being recharged more than once a day. There is a need for a wide variety of devices.

No longer just Personal Digital Assistants, but perhaps now Pocket-able And Lightweight Multimedia devices. ®

Copyright © 2003, IT-Analysis.com

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