Expanding Applications For Handheld Computers
More memory and faster speeds bring
handheld computers into new applications.
Handheld computers are gaining in memory and speed, which is leading to increased uses for these products, says Psion's Jocelyn Vigreux, who works in industrial sales and as Canadian account manager for Psion. The Concord, MA-based company (a subsidiary of Psion PLC, London) has between 30 and 40 employees in the United States. Psion PLC earned $250 million in gross sales worldwide last year.
"Handheld computers are being used to control other devices, such as elevators and climate control systems," says Vigreux. "For example, units like elevators or climate control units have big, black boxes that control systems for the entire building," he explains. "Handhelds allow maintenance staff to diagnose what's wrong with an elevator without ever going into the elevator shaft. This gives workers fast and accurate feedback. In addition, the elevator can sometimes be fixed through the handheld instead of in the elevator shaft."
Faster memory access chip sets requiring lower power and insertable modules are also improving handheld computers, says John Stewart. Stewart is vice president of sales and marketing for WPI Oyster Termiflex, Inc. (Manchester, NH). The WPI Group of companies has over 600 employees worldwide and earned $62.5 million in 1997. "Faster chip sets and insertable modules allow manufacturers to add more capability to smaller and more flexible handheld platforms."
Better Handheld Sales And Service
VARs should become more proactive in developing software to work on different platforms such as Java, says Stewart. "The issue is not only to make handheld computer sales and software development easy for the VAR, but also to make the systems fast and easy for the end user," he says. That means avoiding "standard operating systems" if they become memory hungry and sluggish. Companies want handheld computers to be fast, efficient and effective platforms to get the task at hand accomplished."
Embrace technology, says Vigreux. "There's an old saying that says if you are stagnant, you are losing. A VAR needs to be listening to the market and thinking a few years ahead. It's hard to make sense of all the new technologies, but VARS must keep their ears to the ground to come out ahead. For example, RF/ID is very important in the AIDC industry right now. Today's VARs may not know how to implement RF/ID, but they need to know how to use the technology for tomorrow's handheld application."
VARs should sell cost-effective and flexible platforms instead of generic, one-size-fits-all solutions, says Stewart. "With handheld computers," he explains, "flexibility is key. When selecting handhelds, VARs must make sure that the systems can grow with the end user. They also need to take into account the total costs – not just the initial costs – when proposing a solution." End users should be able to add functions and features to systems as technology advances and needs change.
The Future Of Handheld Computing
Look for the Internet to play an increasingly stronger role in handheld computing, says Vigreux. "Also, Bluetooth RF technology will allow users to have a computer that is constantly online," he explains. The technology is being developed by Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Nokia and Toshiba. Digital devices can be connected through universal short-range radio links instead of cables. According to the Bluetooth Web site at www.bluetooth.com, printers, personal digital assistants, desktops, fax machines and many other digital devices can be hooked into the system. "This technology will change the way we compute on the go," says Vigreux. "It will change the way we use technology and the way we use the airwaves."