Thursday, April 21, 2005

Why a PDA can never be as powerful as a desktop

Recently, there is more and more chatter about how mobile desktops will eventually replace PDA's and smartphones. The Sony QOQ led to bickering and fear in both Palm OS and PocketPC user forums-but I personally feel that this is overreaction.
First of all, lets get to the screen size. Most people use a resolution of at least XGA or higher-while the best PDA's currently have VGA. When you create a line pattern in VGA, it is almost impossible to see the pattern, as it fades out into gray. The pixels are incredibly small and it gets difficult to hit single pixels with the stylus. Now imagine an XGA resolution on the handheld-the display would be impossible to see! And many programs require resolutions much higher than XGA-I just say AutoCad, Target 2003 for PCB layout and PODS/Visual Studio. Thus, one would have to increase the size of the screens-and alas we are back in the Tablet PC sector.
Hard disk space is the next limiting factor. Hard disks follow a simple rule-tmore disks, more capacity. Windows and other applications follow another simple rule: grow with capacity. Add all of these together, and you have this: a PDA is always gonna be smaller than a desktop PC or Tablet PC-so it will always have a disk capacity smaller by an order of magnitude. This will lead to dissatisfied users.
I could go on for hours-but lets end it for now. We had all of this a few years ago with the HP LX series and some other DOS-based Pocket computers-they all died out.
What do you think?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

well... don't put limits to the future: imagine a foldable screen that increase in resolution depending on how much it is folded: i would 480x320 totally folded, 480x640 half folded, 1280x960 when it's all open and you are done

11:10 PM  
Blogger Brad Green said...

You could equate it to saying that I am always going to be older than my younger brother. The problem is that the most powerful applications will remain on the full size pcs, while even if pdas become more powerful, they will not be able to run the latest and greatest. Jeff Kirvin makes a point of this in his latest podcast on, when he says that what will likely have are pdas that are clients running a powerful os that is dependent on the pcs for synchronization of data.

3:30 AM  
Blogger Tam Hanna said...

but a foldable screen still needs more space. And working in VGA mode is almost impossible nowadays!
Best regards
Tam Hanna

7:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No... i meant... foldable... u expand it just when u need it or when u are in a comfortable position (i.e. your desk). And the size will be the same of today in QVGA, just gets bigger unfolding it.
The future, whatever we like it or not is the convergence. Today cellphones and pdas = smartphones. Tomorrow desktop computer and smartphones.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

Good point with the expansionable display!!!

What to say about PDAs? They won´t need to have the power of a conventional pc, I mean I have got the power of a PS2 in my hands with a PSP, that is satisfying at the moment...
With comming communication possibilities (UMTS e.g.), there won´t be the need to have a highend workstation in my pocket.
I log into the company´s network and will use the PDA as a thin client only (RDCing and VNCing is fine already with laptops and the power of the app-servers is even more you could expect even from a highend workstation)...
Or should we render animations on a palm?

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why does a PDA have to have a built-in XGA screen on it? why does a PDA have to have a large or multiple disk drives on it? The PDA only has to have a sufficiently large screen and storage built-in for it to be mobile and pocketable. It could have a very powerful processor and lots of memory and one very important feature: a multiport connector that can connect the PDA to a larger screen, large storage, and faster communications links (e.g., wall-sized displays, fiber channel SAN storage, gigabit LAN, WiMAX, etc.). When up and about, the small built-in screen/storage is fine for checking an appointment, a contact's details, or even an e-mail. When in the office or at home, many people now connect their laptops to bigger screens and keyboards and USB drives. The PDA of the future will be just as capable as the laptops of today, only smaller and connectable to external peripherals and computing devices.

2:22 PM  
Anonymous JR said...

My vision is the following: The future PDA has two modes of operation: 1) a fixed and 2) a nomadic one.

In fixed mode the PDA is your desktop: connected to your favourite keyboard and huge monitor and plugged in to power.
Due to main power supply, the CPU performs at desktop speed. Everything you like with your current desktop is fulfilled with the PDA in fixed mode.

In nomdic mode the PDA turns in some kind of smaller brother to be carried around. The CPU changes to a lower speed (some sort of SpeedStep technology), the internal HD and touchscreen is used (no keyboard).

Now we can debate on the specification a decent PDA needs for nomadic mode: size of HD, size and resolution of touch screen and so on. In my point of view the current PDA's 200 dpi is fine (300 dpi = laser printer quality is far enouhgh). So, a 4" x 6" display (to show digital photos to your parents) would have a resolution of 800x1200 or 1200x1600 pixel, depending on the used dpi).

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