Can Handhelds Improve Support? part 2 - Page 3

 By David Haskin
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What It Costs
There are three major expense areas to consider to give technicians handhelds. First, of course, you must buy handhelds. For the most part, these come in two flavors: Those based on the Palm OS, such as devices from Palm and Handspring, and those based on Microsoft's Pocket PC from vendors such as Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, Casio and Symbol Technologies.

Two factors in determining which to use are price and how you want to connect to your back end. Palm OS devices tend to be less expensive, running as low as $150, while Pocket PCs cost between $350 and $600.

If you're not sure about implementing wireless devices, the low prices of the Palm VIIx may be an incentive. Recent price cuts reduced the price to $99 each after a rebate and writing a quick link to your backend system for testing purposes will take only a day or so, Collins said. That makes it relatively pain-free experiment without making a major investment.

You can connect to your back end system either via public wireless networks, the method used by Alpha Microsystems, or via your company's wireless LAN. Key3Media used Pocket PC handhelds from Symbol Technologies equipped with 802.11b PC Cards. Using a public wireless network requires additional fees of between $25 and $50 per month per device, depending on the service provider. The wireless LAN adapter costs, typically, about $150.

The third cost is the time required to write the code to connect the handhelds to your back end system. Most systems from vendors such as Computer Associates make it relatively easy gain access via wireless devices. The easiest solution, however, is to use a Palm VII and that device's native query language. Collins said that writing the connection to his company's SQL Server was a trivial matter.

This article was originally published on Jul 10, 2001
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