| Palm OS 5
For years, these two handheld operating systems have been competing fiercely to woo handheld buyers. Both do an admirable job with the core applications: Address Book, Calendar, To-Do List, and Memos. And since the release of Palm OS 5, they are pretty evenly matched in terms of processors, screen resolutions, and multimedia functions. There are, however, still some key differences. Again, be sure to check out our Quick guide to handheld operating systems
for a more in-depth look and comparison of the various platforms.
Palm | Windows Mobile 5
Windows Mobile 5
With the release of OS 5, the Palm operating system made some major improvements yet retained its ease of use. The new multithreading OS supports ARM-based processors, which keeps Palm competitive with Windows Mobile products by increasing overall computing performance and enhancing multimedia features.
To input letters and numbers, Palm uses Graffiti 2, an updated version of its original handwriting recognition system, where you write in block characters that are similar to traditional letters but are easier for the handheld to recognize.
Many Palm OS devices still have a designated Graffiti area below the display, which limits the screen size. Newer models offer a virtual Graffiti area that can be minimized to give you more visual real estate, a feature that's been found on Microsoft-based handhelds for years.
Palm devices use Graffiti 2.0's handwriting recognition system, where you write in block characters similar to traditional letters.
The Palm OS has some distinct advantages over Windows Mobile when it comes to PC synchronization. First, it's compatible with Apple and Windows-based computers. Palm also offers an e-mail program called VersaMail, which works with a variety of similar applications such as Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, Microsoft Exchange, and Lotus Notes. Be sure to check and see if VersaMail comes bundled with the handheld; otherwise, it'll cost you $30.
Third-party apps such as DataViz's Documents To Go allows you to work with Microsoft Office files on your PDA.
The Palm platform also benefits from the enormous library of third-party applications. For example, if you intend to work with Microsoft Office files on your handheld, the Palm OS doesn't provide built-in support. However, many models come bundled with DataViz's Documents To Go Professional Edition, a tool that not only lets you work with said files but does a better job synchronizing with your PC and maintaining formatting than Windows Mobile Pocket Word and Pocket Excel. Check out CNET's Download.com
for other apps, from games to expense-tracking tools to media players.
In early May, Microsoft revamped its mobile OS and introduced Windows Mobile 5, focusing on productivity and the multimedia experience, as well as giving manufacturers a platform to build new devices. The company touts the fact that Windows Mobile resembles desktop versions of Windows and is therefore easier to use. However, we feel the learning curve is actually steeper than Palm devices. Don't get discouraged--anyone can quickly master the OS.
Where Palm offers just a single handwriting recognition system, Windows Mobile has three choices: Block Recognizer, which is similar to Grafitti; Letter Recognizer, which imitates the act of printing letters; and Transcriber, a system that recognizes either printed or cursive handwriting, provided you write neatly. And as noted, Windows Mobile devices have a virtual input area that appears onscreen only when needed. When it's hidden, you have nearly 1/3 more screen real estate.
Windows Mobile 5 is intended to mesh with all of Microsoft's software. It comes with a copy of Outlook Mobile, and the synchronization is top notch. All the fields from your Outlook contact list are sent to the handheld, and you can even access Hotmail and MSN in-boxes within Outlook. However, if your business uses Lotus Notes or some other e-mail system, you're in a bit of a pickle. And if you're on a Mac, you'll need to purchase third-party synchronization software.
Windows Mobile devices come with mini versions of the Microsoft Office suite, such as Pocket Outlook.
In addition to Outlook, Windows Mobile 5 replaced the old Pocket versions of Word and Excel with Word Mobile and Excel Mobile, which now support tables, lists, embedded images, and charts. And finally, you can now view (though not edit) PowerPoint presentations on your handheld.
There's a respectable library of third-party software available for Windows Mobile devices. Gamers and multimedia fans, in particular, will benefit from the collection of entertainment apps and media players that let you view native MPEG files and music composition tools with built-in software synthesizers. Again, CNET's Download.com
is a good resource for add-ons to your Pocket PC device.