What is a PDA?
While the name PDA (an acronym for Personal Digital Assistant) conjures up the iconic Palm Pilot for most people, in reality it covers a very broad range of devices and technology. In fact, PDAs have become so advanced and feature-rich that the manufacturers themselves rarely refer to them as PDAs, opting instead for broader labels such as “handheld computers”, “smartphones” and “converged devices”. Indeed, today’s PDAs often bear only a passing resemblance to those that first populated the market over a decade ago.
Originally designed as replacements for paper-based day planners, PDAs started as fairly simple electronic tools that would manage appointments, telephone numbers, and short notes, utilizing an innovating synchronization process that allowed the device and a desktop computer to update each other with new information. Fast forward to today and the typical PDA packs more computing power in a tiny handheld package than the very desktop computers those earlier units connected to. While PDAs still do a great job of keep users organized, their true value comes from the features and functions that have been added over time such as third-party software support (over 25,000 different applications can be loaded on many PDAs), email capabilities, web browsing, audio/video playback, integrated cellular phones and so on. In this regard, the name handheld computer perhaps really is the most appropriate for this new generation of PDAs.
Today, the term PDA would commonly cover devices with operating systems from Palm (Palm OS), Microsoft (Windows Mobile/Pocket PC), Symbian, Apple and Research in Motion (Blackberry). However, not all PDAs are the same, so devices from one manufacturer may not be as well suited as devices from another. To learn more about the different operating systems and how well they may match your needs, click on the links below for more detailed operating system reviews.