Pick Your Wireless-enabled Weapon – Laptops or PDAs?
PDAs will be used at hotspots, too. Broadcom last week demoed a prototype in New York City showing use of one of its new chips in a small and light PDA architecture. The prototype combines Wi-Fi with a second wireless technology – such as Bluetooth – in a single piece of silicon.
Next year, several Pocket PC vendors plan to release PDAs based on a Windows XP-based architecture from Microsoft. Instead of requiring applications written for relatively "niche" OSes – such as PocketPC or PalmOS – PDAs will soon be able to run standard XP fare. As a result, enterprises interested in PDA deployment will be spared the expense of custom development, according to Bajarin.
Furthermore, Windows shops should soon be able to use the same .NET technologies for administering PCs and PDAs alike. Other vendors, such as Sharp and G.Mate, are making a play with Linux-based PDAs.
However, the operating environment isn't the only factor to look at when choosing between PCs and PDAs for remote wireless access.
Sears took a hard look at both options, deciding on laptops for a different set of reasons, according to Sankey. "Our application is relatively thick," he said. To reduce demands on wireless links, Sears supplies its repair staff with DVDs containing 90,000 part diagrams each. Downloads are only required for updates on parts.
Sears' current implementation, however, is not exactly set in stone. "We do periodic technology reviews, and make changes accordingly," Sankey said.
So, securing laptops for public hotspots is only the beginning. Over the next few years, enterprises will face increasing numbers of new remote access scenarios. Your best bet is to start preparing now, by learning all you can about these and other emerging options for mobile/wireless communications and management.