You know, I feel like a poster child for Dell most of the time.
I have a Dell notebook, Dell printer, and Dell Axim Pocket PC. To me,
they are tools I use to run my business and satisfy customer needs. My
selections have been pragmatic, but one of my choices surprises me in
terms of how people respond to it. Do you know what captures the most
attention on planes, in restaurants, hotels and just about anywhere I go?
It’s not the $4,000 notebook or my printed output. It’s the combination
of my little Dell Axim X30 and Dell’s own foldable keyboard. I’ve had
people from all walks of life come up and ask me what it is and what I
can do with it. I had a Palm III, Palm IIIX and Palm V for years. I’ve
had notebooks/laptops for the last 10 years, but nothing inspires the
level of questioning and curiosity that the combination of Axim handheld
and foldable keyboard do.
As a business owner, I had a very real need for the combination. I knew
the benefits of storing schedules and contact info in a PDA and synching
with a host (desktop or notebook) computer. A while back, I was at a
management conference and there was a fellow emailing through his PDA
with a wireless expansion device and a keyboard. Later, I saw a Windows
Mobile on a handheld with MS Word, and was sold.
Now, I am a true devotee out of business necessity.
As many know, I am both a consultant and a writer. In fact, the latter
takes quite a bit of my time as I average three to four articles per
month, along with a newsletter and frequent peer reviews of others’ work.
When looking at ways to increase my productivity, I knew I needed
something that would be ultra-portable (meaning real small), instantly
on, have good battery life, a clear color display, a removable storage
card, and a foldable keyboard for true typing. I opted for the Axim X30
because it had a good combination of all these elements.
I also bought two optional extended life batteries, a 256MB memory stick,
spare data cable for my computer bag, spare styli, screen protector
sheets and a carrying case for the Axim itself. Since October, 2004, I
have worn out one keyboard that Dell cheerfully (literally) replaced
under warranty as it was a Dell branded item. I have written somewhere
around 20 articles on it, along with countless outlines and notes.
I really like the small form factor and the long battery life. I also
like the fact that when I’m on an airplane and they tell me it’s time to
turn off electronic devices, I can do it almost instantaneously. That
gives me that much more time to keep writing.
When I’m heading out to events, it’s not uncommon at all for me to have
the keyboard in one pocket and my Axim in another just in case I have
free time or the writer’s creative ‘groove’ hits me.
There is one challenge that I think all manufacturers are trying to
address and that is using the small screen when Web browsing. You can
receive and view full-size screens, but scrolling around to see what can
fit on your little screen can get very tedious. I’ve read about groups
working on projecting the image onto an external surface, such as a wall.
I’ve also heard aobut plans to create glasses with an integral display,
or possibly a display that clips onto existing eyeglasses. Personally,
I’d opt for one of the eyeglass options for privacy reasons, plus I’d
expect that option would probably have far lower power consumption than a
projector and not require an external surface of suitable composition to
exist. However, I must admit the projector could be very useful for ad
hoc presentations or sharing ideas.
Moving past my observations about the unit itself, I am extremely
intrigued by all the questions I get.
As people question me, I question them to better understand their
interest. The prime attraction, if you will, is the little handheld
sitting on the little foldable keyboard and me typing away.
Some people really like the instant on/off features. Some really like the
fact that I have wireless capabilities. Most like the fact that I can
use it as a traditional PDA, writing tool, and then synch with my
notebook. College students really seem to like the ‘cool gizmo’ appeal,
plus its music player capabilities.
Nobody who I have talked to seems put off by the price that I paid (about
$600 with all the accessories). Pricing questions are almost always asked
but my response never seems to be an issue or even a surprise. In part,
that may be due them seeing me really using the combination as a tool and
not simply a toy.
What really floors me is the conversation starter that this little tool
I never would have guessed the influence it would have on people when I
bought it. In fact, I am eating lunch right now, writing and have already
had one inquiry by a college student who would love to get something like
this that he can carry in his backpack for taking notes without the
weight or delay in booting associated with his notebook. Then at the end
of the day, he could download his notes to his desktop in his dorm room.
In short, the handheld computers definitely generate interest in the
market based on my completely unscientific research since October, 2004
when I first started traveling with the unit. I’ve talked to HP and
Compaq owners who are equally happy and some are now intrigued by the
keyboard as that wasn’t something they initially considered.
Speaking for myself, Dell should take this article as a job well done and
all manufacturers should review the feedback about the importance of
size, weight, boot time, and battery capacity, not to mention foldable
keyboards for large-scale data entry.
The only problem I have now is a regular urge to tell inquisitors,
”Dude, I got a Dell.”