Palmtops are usually considered those computers, who are the smallest category of mobile computers. They have no keyboard but rely on other means of data-entry. As voice-input is not yet fully functional (especially not considering the computing power and memory size of small devices), they rely on pens with either a touchscreen (selecting the items you want) or a character recognition (You write on the screen).


Although they have advantages (size, weight, access-speed, ...), palmtops suffer from some problems compared to their large brothers, handheld PCs and full (desktop or notebook) PCs:

Screen size: The screen size of palmtops is very small compared to a desktop system. Even so, it is large enough to display a decent amount of information. Applications for palmtops must take special care to use as little user interface as possible, to allow more room for the actual data.

No keyboard: Because of the size palmtops have no keyboard. This requires the user to write directly on the screen or select on it. The latter is rather slow and the former has the problem, that the screen is small. If somebody is writing in a large script, he might have problems, finishing long words in a single line. Also, you have to write directly over the information, so you will at least partially obstruct your view on the information to work on.

Less memory/computing power: Palmtops have, because of size and weight, rather less memory and computing power. This will not allow a user to run extensive calculations on it, but this is also not the application they are designed for. More of a problem can be the limited memory. A typical application is as a mobile reference and these references might be very large. To quickly find items a crossreference might be necessary, needing additional memory. 16 or 32 MB of memory (although probably without the applications; these can be in the ROM) can be a bit small for larger applications, especially if multimedia items like images are included.

Usability for mobile work:

Palmtops are not useful for general work. The limited ability to enter and modify data prevents this. But in cases where the priority is on receiving or accessing information of modest size, they can be very useful. It would be best to see them as an extension of a time-planner: They can do all of this and a bit more. So if the work can be done with a time-planner and some additional information on paper, palmtops are a good alternative. On the other hand, if already a full computer is needed for the work (notebook), an additional palmtop is rather less useful. It is more independent of power supplies and faster at hand (no delay for booting), so it might be a slight advantage, but the problem of synchronizing the content is then increased (not only the desktop but also the notebook must be synchronized with it and with each other). In short, palmtops can be useful for more passive mobile work (receiving and looking up information), but are unsuitable for active mobile work (focus on entry and manipulation of data).

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