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At your fingertips: The personal data assistant

01 Jul 07

Until 7 January 1992, the acronym PDA meant “public display of affection.”  But once former Apple Computer CEO, John Sculley, coined the term “personal data assistant,” while referring to the Apple Newton, it was no longer seen as a simple reference to hormonally charged teenagers making out in public.  The PDA, also called a handheld or a palm, is a revolutionary technological masterpiece. 
A PDA is a handheld computer, originally designed as a personal organiser, but it has become much more versatile over the years.  Not only can a PDA keep track of one’s schedule by use of a calendar, but it also provides access to the internet and email via Wi-Fi or Wireless Wide-Area Networks (WWANs), calculation capabilities, a digital clock, video recording, word processing, and often a GPS.  Today’s most versatile PDAs have both colour screens and audio capabilities, enabling them to be used as mobile phones, web browsers, and portable media players.
The Apple Newton, launched in 1993, is seen to be the first PDA, although earlier devices like the Psion and Sharp Wizard of the 1980s already utilised some of the functionality of the first PDAs.  PalmPilots followed the Newton, and the introduction of the Blackberry, which offered synchronised email in 1999, set the technology well on its way to developing a truly mobile office.  Lower prices and advancements in software technology have boosted sales and led to more widespread use in recent years.  When selling PDAs, it is important to understand your customers’ needs.  Be sure to ask what they’re looking for in terms of power, synchronisation, camera and video capabilities, connectivity, memory, expansion, platform, screen and CPU.  If you get a clear understanding of how and when your customer will use their new PDA, you have a much better chance of helping them select the right one.
Ben Baumgarten, market development manager consumer notebooks & iPAQ Pocket PCs for HP, clarified some key opportunities available in the PDA market.  The average employee spends one-third of his or her time away from the office, and even when at the office, can be away from their desk up to half the time.  This provides a strong incentive to get mobile.  More and more companies are developing mobility strategies, and partners can help focus on this development to build and maintain sales.  Rather than having employees on several different devices and carriers, companies can streamline their mobility strategy and get every employee on the same program.  This not only creates a more efficient and easy to manage environment, but also decreases costs for the entire company.  “People want email on the go, and ease in sharing information,” said Baumgarten.  “The advent of wireless technology is huge at the moment, and provides a solution.”
It is inefficient, said Baumgarten if the company sales team uses Blackberries, while the accounts team has Pocket PCs.  If you can offer a solution to your customers by providing a mobility plan that covers all bases, you will be ahead of your competition. 
HP’s commercial team deals with resellers whose customers want to automate their sales force.  They regularly train resellers on the HP product line so they can educate end-users in turn.  “HP likes to get direct face-to-face contact with the customer to know what they want and need, and what they are actually using their PDAs for.  We love to get in the customers face and help channel partners secure that business,” said Baumgarten.
A key sales message to focus on, says Baumgarten, is unplugging from the office, but staying connected at the same time.  HP has its own mobile workforce, and HP employees use their own technology to truly practice what they preach. 
In a world where business is becoming increasingly mobile, it is important to stay up-to-date on the available technology, so your customers can get the most out of their time and money.  Some realtors, for example, are 100% mobile, and do all of their communication from outside an office.  There are huge opportunities here for resellers, if you stay on top of the market. 
Another sales angle for resellers is security.  HP remotely manages patches on iPAQs through BigPhone, which it acquired last year.  BigPhone allows HP to shut down and wipe data on PDAs that have been lost or compromised. In addition, HP PDAs come with extra inbuilt security – some with biometric fingerprint readers, ability to encrypt data, and pin and password to help companies secure data. Because security has become such a hot topic, make sure your customers are aware of all the available security option and upsell!  

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