Portable computing comes in three varieties: Notebook, Subnotebook, and
"Palmtop", with variously sized devices to match. A future version of
portable computing will include NCs (Network Computers)
where, by plugging into a phone line or the Internet, you can log onto your
office network and have access to your normal desktop environment.
Notebooks provide the most power, approaching the power of desktop computers and have nice, large color screens. The problems are: cost, short battery life, weight, and security (they are a prime item for thieves). The really bad thing about theft is the thief may sell sensitive information from the notebook to someone you don't want to have it. Fuel cells are being developed for notebooks, which may relieve the battery problem.
Subnotebooks are much smaller and lighter than Notebooks, with much longer battery life. The problems here are the keyboard is miniature so you can't touch type, and the screens are small and much harder to read. They can't use full desktop operating systems, so their files may not be completely compatible with the programs on your desktop.
Palmtops are smaller still, and take input in the form of hand lettering with special pen on their screen, or taping thing out on a small square keyboard. Handwriting recognition is becoming much better, to the point these things are actually useful now. Besides note taking, they include calendars, address lists and the like. They can be connected to your desktop computer to transfer information to and from. The holy grail for PDAs is voice recognition, but it isn't ready yet.
Notebooks are pretty standard now, so the technology battle is all in palm computers.
Seeing the early success of Palm Computing's Palm Pilot, Microsoft decided something had to be done to destroy it and created Windows CE, a version of Windows designed to run on sub-notebook devices. Pundits of every shape and size declared Palm dead and predicted the swift victory of Microsoft. Some still do.
Some people like Windows CE devices, but they really haven't taken off. Their one big advantage, color screens, is now falling away as Palm Pilots with color screens are being released. Windows CE has done badly enough in the market that Microsoft has seen fit to do what they always do when a product gets a bad reputation, they renamed it.
3Com, which purchased Palm, had the good sense to license the Palm operating system so others could make compatible devices. Some companies, Sony in particular, realized Microsoft fully intended to eat their lunch, and dropped CE in favor of licensing Palm. Others just dropped their CE devices because of lack of market.
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