What is the Best PDA to Use with GroupWise?


Many GroupWise customers ask us to recommend the best PDA for GroupWise.  Aldo Zanoni, CEO and Managing Director of Omni, provides his suggestions on some of the factors to consider when choosing a PDA to use with GroupWise.

  1. GroupWise Synchronization Options
  2. My Vote for the Best PDA Platform ... GroupWise on Pocket PC
  3. PDA Factors to Consider
  4. User Expectations
  5. GroupWise Mobile Enterprise Platform vs Personal Device
  6. Omni's Experience with Mobile Platforms
  7. Touch Screen vs Non-Touch Screen PDAs
  8. QWERTY vs Phone Keypad
  9. Total Cost of Ownership of Devices
  10. What is the Best PDA for GroupWise?

GroupWise Synchronization Options

So where do you start when choosing the right device to use with GroupWise?  Before you can choose your device, you need to deternine which GroupWise synchronization option is best for your environment and budget (e.g., cradle-sync, wireless, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth).  You then need to consider which GroupWise synchronization solution (e.g., Omni Mobile, GroupWise Mobile Server, BES, NotifyLink, GWAnywhere, Toffa, PDA Connect, etc.) will best meets your needs from an infrastructure and support perspective.

These decisions are based on many factors.  These include the cost of upgrading to GroupWise 7 SP1 with support to receive the "free" version of GroupWise Mobile Server, the number of mobile users, the cost associated with installing the hardware and software required for Windows servers to support the application, GroupWise version compatibility, firewall compatibility, Total Cost of Ownership factors and the mobile platforms (Windows Mobile, Pocket PC, BlackBerry, Palm OS, Sony Ericsson, Nokia, Symbian, others) to support.  An additional factors is whether your users want to synchronize GroupWise to the native PIM applications on the devices or whether they want a GroupWise caching client for mobile devices. 

In addition to the synchronization method and solution, additional external factors often play a role in limiting the devices from which you can choose.  External factors include being restricted to devices supported by the preferred corporate service provider and the various signal coverage, data speed options, international travel requirements and connectivity, flexibility and costs of data/voice plans. 

And, that's the easy part of the decision!  The hard part is choosing your mobile device. There are lots of choices out there – each with advantages. So, what are some of the factors to consider when choosing the best PDA to use with GroupWise?  Before you can choose the best PDA, you have to choose the best PDA platform.

My Vote for the Best PDA Platform ... GroupWise on Pocket PC

My vote for the best PDA platform (and the preference shared by many Omni Mobile customers) is for Pocket PC and Windows Mobile PDA devices.

Just about any Palm, Pocket PC, Windows Mobile, Sony Ericsson, Nokia, BlackBerry and virtually any recent device on the planet can do email and PIM synchronization. That's a given in today's world. So why is a Pocket PC or Windows Mobile PDA phone the best device to use with GroupWise?  The most important reason is because GroupWise is a corporate email and collaboration solution.  Corporate users need to consider more than just PIM email, contact and calendar synchronization when selecting a device. And before you choose the best PDA, you have to choose the best operating system platform for your corporate needs.  I believe the winner in that category is Windows Mobile. 

The Windows Mobile platform currently supports the widest variety of form factors, manufacturers and devices.  Virtually every manufacturer has a Pocket PC or Windows Mobile PDA or Smart Phone device to choose from.  Pocket PC and Windows Mobile devices run the full spectrum from the inexpensive, basic, cradle-sync iPAQ PDAs to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi compatible devices to PDA Phones like the full-size, horizontal-flip-keyboard available on the  Cingular 8125, Qteks and others; and the QWERTY keyboards available on the HP 6515, the Palm 700W. I believe devices built on the Windows Mobile platform are currently ahead of the pack in terms of features, usability, choice of devices and end-user acceptance. Windows Mobile Smart Phones like the Motorola Q, Cingular 2125, Samsung i320 (and other non-touch screen Windows Smart Phones) extend the Windows Mobile options for users who do not want or need touch screen capabilities. 

We have a saying at Omni that mobile time is accelerated time.  One month in mobile time is equivalent to one year in non-mobile time.  One year in mobile time is equivalent to a generation.  Mobile PDAs are evolving so fast that today's best choice might not be the same choice a month from now!  We are hearing GREAT things from early users of the new Nokia eSeries devices.  The Nokia e61 and e62 certainly look to be up-and-coming contenders in the competition for the best PDA for GroupWise.  Check back in a few months or so to see if my vote has changed based on the arrival of new devices and capabilities.

PDA Factors to Consider

So, why is the Pocket PC PDA phone platform my preference? Let's review the important factors to consider when choosing a corporate PDA/Smart Phone platform:

  1. What are the adoption challenges for a new user?
  2. What is the user experience from a file management, native application support and device navigation perspective?
  3. Does the device have a multi-tasking operating system?
  4. How mature is the developer community and how difficult is it to develop corporate applications.
  5. QWERTY Keyboard (PDA-type device) versus phone keyboards.
  6. Total cost of ownership of supporting mobile devices.

User Expectations

Most users moving into the mobile space today are not early technology adopters.  They do not have a history of using a particular mobile platform other than a basic mobile phone.    

These users are experienced Windows, Macintosh or Linux desktop users who have high – and often unrealistic – expectations of what the user experience should be on a mobile PDA device. Some users actually expect to be able to edit a four MB Word, Excel or PowerPoint document while running Adobe Photoshop.  They soon find out that is not the case.

In addition to the form factor and application differences, users quickly learn there is a big difference in battery life between a data-enabled PDA and a mobile phone.  When comparing PDAs, it's important to determine how long your battery will last under "real" use.  If the device won't provide at least a full day's use under heavy load, its advanced features and push-email synchronization might not be worth having.

GroupWise Mobile Enterprise Platform vs Personal Device

When individuals buy their first "personal" PDA, email, calendar and contact information synchronization is at the top of their list.  Often, just having a cradle-sync solution to synchronize these functions is good enough.

How is this different for GroupWise users?  Access to GroupWise is certainly the first priority for corporate users.  But, once you have the basics in place, it soon becomes a question of what other business value can be derived from these devices.  At the enterprise level, the company has to determine the true costs for the installation, administration, training and on-going support of the chosen GroupWise synchronization solution and mobile device platform.

The PDA preferred by the technicians or the latest and greatest PDA might not be the best choice for corporate users.  Before a corporation chooses a device, it needs to ask a number of "enterprise" questions to help determine the device platform:

  • What other applications run on these devices?
  • Does everyone in the enterprise require wireless or is cradle-sync "good enough" for many users?
  • Can we access our sales or CRM data from this device?
  • What remote access applications or reporting software can they run?
  • What third-party corporate mobile applications exist on which platforms?
  • Does GroupWise Messenger run on this platform?
  • If we need to develop an application, what OS will provide the best development platform
  • What is the user learning / adoption curve?
  • How will our support processes change to reflect mobile user requests?
  • How do we determine the total cost of ownership of the various devices? 

Corporate users see their mobile devices as extensions of their desktops.  They expect to be able to access GroupWise, be connected to GroupWise Messenger and be reviewing an attachment at the same time.  Is this realistic?  Some of it, yes. And some of it, no.  But the answer depends more on your choice of operating system than your choice of specific PDA.

While Windows Mobile and Symbian provide multi-tasking operating systems and therefore allow multiple applications to be open at the same time (restricted of course by the amount of memory on the device), that is certainly not the case for Palm OS devices.  Palm OS devices are based on a single-tasking OS and cannot satisfy the user multi-tasking expectation.

Omni's Experience with Mobile Platforms

Based on Omni's experience in the mobile application development space, we have determined that the Windows Mobile platform has the richest and fullest set of APIs for mobile application development. The Windows Mobile platform provides the easiest transition for developers who are moving from developing Windows desktop applications to developing mobile applications.

Based on our experience, the next best set of development tools are available for the Symbian OS, followed by Palm and then BlackBerry. The corporate choice of PDA is not only about ease of development, but also about the mobile application development ecosystem and number of companies that develop solutions for the various platforms. (That's where BlackBerry is at a distinct disadvantage.)

In our particular case, Omni overcame the multi-platform development issue by using AppForge Crossfire as middleware.  Crossfire removed the complexities of having to develop for each mobile platform in a different development language.  Crossfire allowed us to develop Omni Mobile to be cross-platform and cross-device compatible with Pocket PC, Windows Mobile, Palm OS, Sony Ericsson and Nokia mobile devices – with BlackBerry support coming Q4, 2006.

Developing rich "corporate" mobile applications is an area in which the Palm and the BlackBerry have fallen behind. Simple applications can be built for any platform.  But simple is no longer good enough to satisfy corporate business needs on mobile devices. BlackBerry Connect is Blackberry emulation software for non-BlackBerry devices.  While this software may be fine for access to GroupWise through BES and for basic applications, emulation is traditionally not perceived as a strong way to develop feature-rich applications.

The Palm OS (Treo 700P, 650 and 600) has not made any significant developer advances in MANY years. While the Palm Treo 650 and 700P are pretty nice devices, they suffer from not being able to provide direct application integration, not having a file system that can be accessed by third-party applications and having a single-tasking operating system.  The single-threaded operating system is the biggest limitation of Palm OS devices.  The single-threaded OS prevents users from being able to carry out concurrent tasks (reading an email, reading a PDF attachment and talking on the phone at the same time).  These are the types of expectations people have of their mobile solution once they get over the excitement of having access to the emails and calendar. 

Now if the new Palm Treo 700P had been a Linux-based OS or the new multi-tasking Palm OS that everyone had hoped for, this might have been a different story!

Touch Screen vs Non-Touch Screen PDAs

What about the question of touch screen support? Touch screen devices are much easier for users to adapt to because the touch screen provides the easiest transition for users migrating from a mouse-driven graphic user interface.

Touch screen support is more important for new mobile users than for experienced mobile users. The new mobile user is similar to a new computer user. New computer users are "mouse click" fixated. Experienced users look for more efficient keyboard shortcuts rather than using the mouse for everything.  

The advantage of touch screen devices is they allow new users to get comfortable with their device by replacing mouse navigation with the touch screen. When they get to the point where they want to navigate with one hand, they start to figure out the five-way toggle, scroll wheel navigation and other quick input options. 

New users become frustrated very quickly when they have to adapt to the small size, the application limitations AND a new, non-touch screen navigation paradigm.

QWERTY vs Phone Keypad

One of the most important user interface considerations is whether to choose a device with a QWERTY keyboard or a phone keypad. Just try typing http://www.omni-ts.com/ on a phone pad and you will see what I mean! 

Yes, the form factor is larger on QWERTY keyboard devices, but if you are looking for PDA functionality versus a mobile phone, a QWERTY keyboard is a must.   This is where the BlackBerry wins hands down.

BlackBerry has mastered the keyboard and jog-wheel interface. No other device "gets" the user input paradigm as well as BlackBerry. The Moto Q, the Palm 700W and the Nokia e61 and e62 come close, but they are not as "comfortable" and keyboard user-friendly as the BlackBerry. If all you need is access to GroupWise email and calendars, BlackBerry does a great job.  But until Omni Mobile supports BlackBerry devices, given the BES infrastructure and Windows Server requirements, lack of touch screen support and limited attachment viewing and application availability, the BlackBerry might not be the best choice for many organisations.

If you are looking for interesting QWERTY keyboard devices, the "horizontal flip keyboard" available on the Windows Cingular 98125, PPC 6700, iMate K-JAM, Qtek 9100 (and others) and the Nokia 9300 phones are very interesting.  Historically, the biggest disadvantage of QWERTY keyboards on mobile devices has been the relatively large size of devices. With the arrival of new Windows Mobile PDAs like the Treo 700W, new Windows Mobile Smart Phones and the Nokia e61, there is an increasing number of smaller non-BlackBerry QWERTY keyboard options.

Total Cost of Ownership of Devices

Different analysts have projected the yearly total cost of ownership for a mobile device to be many times the cost of the device and more expensive than supporting a standard desktop.  In the case of some PDAs, the outright purchase price of a mobile PDA or smart phone is equal to the cost of a small desktop. But even when the device cost is "free" (subsidized by a data plan), it is very important to understand that a "free" solution or device is never really free. 

The acquisition cost of a PDA is inconsequential when compared to the cost of supporting these devices in the long term.  Even with an unlimited data plan, the cost for most plans in North America will be $75-$100.00 US per month.  In other parts of the world, this cost can be quite a bit more.  In addition to the cost of data plans (these are becoming less expensive with time), the costs related to infrastructure changes, additional servers, backups, installing and configuring the devices, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth configuration, "gadget" add-ons, training time, lost productivity due to learning time, replacing lost devices, providing remote support for roaming users, device configuration for international roaming and 24-hour support for mobile users are some of the reasons supporting mobile devices is so much more expensive that desktops. Based on our experience, total cost of ownership is reduced by choosing devices based on the Pocket PC / Windows Mobile platform.

What is the Best PDA for GroupWise?

So what is the definitive answer to the question: "What is the best PDA to use with GroupWise?"

It would be nice if there were a "single" answer to that question.  And, that single answer, from a corporate perspective, has to be:  "The PDA that your users, administrators and senior finance people are happiest with in terms of user experience, functionality, ease of installation, administration, GroupWise support and corporate return on investment is the best solution for your environment."

What is my opinion of the best PDA for GroupWise?  One thing is sure, the best platform for the advanced functionality of Omni Mobile for GroupWise is the Pocket PC / Windows Mobile platform.  And of those devices, the following phones are at the top of my list:  Cingular 8125, HTC TyTN (and other "horizontal" full sliding keyboard phones), the HP iPAQ 6915 and 6515 Phones (GPRS, Edge, Blue Tooth AND built-in Wi-Fi) and the Palm Treo 700W and 750 VX.  Not only do these Windows-based OS mobile devices provide great access to GroupWise with Omni Mobile and Omni Messenger, they deliver native access to attachments, the best browsing experience, acceptable battery life, a very good phone, a good set of default applications and the best graphic user experience available on a PDA. These are great devices.  I must admit, however, that using the RDP client is a bit of a challenge when viewing my 1024 x 768 remote desktop from the 240 x 240 screen.  :-)

And maybe that's the most important thing to remember about choosing the best PDA – you can't have everything!


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