Gartner Sees PDA Boom

Gartner/Dataquest says the cost of supporting a wireless handheld computer in the enterprise is around $4,400 a year.

But such costs may not be enough to deter exploding usage of wireless devices. Phil Redman, research director for Gartner, is expecting more growth in wireless devices. He believes better technology and "always-on" networks will enable users to access a variety of business applications, rather than using their device as a glorified Rolodex.

"When that happens, there will be a huge boom in PDA use [in the enterprise]," he says. "Just like when computers were first networked together." Today, Gartner says that it costs around $3,000 a year to run a standard Palm or Pocket PC handheld (which typically cost between $200 and $500). This includes the cost of buying the hardware and software, training the user, and supporting the device.

However, adding a wide-area wireless LAN card (GSM, CDMA, cellular digital packet data [CDPD] networks) tacks another $1,392 onto the yearly bill, according to Gartner. Buying the airtime accounts for the majority of the extra cost, Redman says.

Buying a smartphone, which integrates organizer and wireless capabilities, will reduce those costs a little, says Redman, but not by much. Carriers are hoping to coax enterprise customers into spending more money on data services on their new general packet radio service (GPRS) and CDMA2000 1xRTT networks. It will be interesting to see if that affects Gartner's TCO (total cost of ownership) reports over the next couple of years.

Redman says that wireless LAN services are really not much of an issue for enterprise customers at the moment. We at Unstrung reckon that corporations are at least testing wireless LAN, given the number of networks sniffed out by the "war drivers" on the Net Stumbler site. Anyway, whether it is here now, or coming soon, wireless LAN access will still likely add to the TCO, requiring new cards and more support. Redman expects that local-area wireless connectivity will really take root with corporate customers when dual-mode wireless LAN and WAN cards are readily available.

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung
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