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Palm OS Programming, 2nd Edition by Neil Rhodes, Julie McKeehan

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Easy to Carry

Palm OS devices are small—they fit in a hand or a pocket. This was true six years ago and is still true today. Palm devices fit in anyone’s pocket—whether it is the biggest device, the Palm VIIx, or a smaller one such as a Handspring Visor Edge. This is enormously important in understanding the success of the Palm. Other handhelds were made that didn’t fit in a pocket and they bombed. In Table 1-1 you can see the footprint of some Palm OS devices to see what these magic dimensions are.

Table 1-1. Palm OS device dimensions

Device

Height (in.)

Width (in.)

Depth (in.)

Weight (oz.)

Original PalmPilot

4.7

3.2

0.7

5.7

Palm m100

4.7

3.2

0.7

4.4

Palm Vx

4.5

3.1

0.4

4

Handspring Visor

4.8

3.0

0.7

6.1

Handspring Visor Edge

4.7

3.1

0.4

4.8

Palm VIIx

5.3

3.3

0.8

6.7

Palm m505

4.5

3.1

0.5

5.1

Palm IIIc

5.1

3.2

0.7

6.8

HandEra 330

4.7

3.2

0.7

5.9

Sony CLIE

4.8

2.8

0.8

6.5

Each of these devices differs in some features and remains the same in others. What should be most striking, however, is that very little tolerance exists for size variation. Try putting a Palm VIIx into your pocket. You will find that it is just barely comfortable (some people would say it isn’t!), while a device like the Visor Edge fits easily. Notice though that the difference between these two devices is about only 2 ounces in weight, 0.6 inches in length, and 0.4 inches in depth. When you look at such dimensions on a chart or in a product review they may seem insignificant, but when you feel each device in your pocket, such tiny changes make a huge difference. The first crucial point is that a small, objective difference in size creates a great, subjective difference in the quality of user experience.

Tip

The designer of the first Palm device, Jeff Hawkins, and the rest of the PalmPilot team, walked around with variously sized mock-up wood boards in their hands and pockets. These smart people knew an incredibly important rule—make it comfortable to hold and carry or no one will want it. Five million cool features will not make a normal person lug a log around all day.

Palm knows that a device bigger than a Palm VIIx won’t fit in most pockets, and would defeat the advantage of being a handheld, so Palm does not make anything bigger. The right handheld has to be the right size and there’s little room for error (as some other handheld makers have learned). Indeed, the trend at Palm in creating devices is not towards adding features, but reducing size. The newest devices from Palm and other licensees are getting smaller.

Tip

Look at the history of cell phones for a similar lesson in the importance of device size. Cell phones are getting smaller as well.

Now, this raises an interesting point concerning other handhelds. A few years ago, other handheld makers commonly made much bigger devices (so they could pack those features in). Now, by looking at the current crop of Pocket PC devices, we can see that others have learned something about the size rule from Palm. What it seems the contenders have learned is that you can’t make a handheld bigger than the largest dimensions. By comparing these units with Palm’s new products (see Table 1-2 and Table 1-3), you can see that Palm is pushing the size envelope to the smallest possible and that Pocket PC makers are pushing it to the largest possible.

Table 1-2. Pocket PC 2000 and 2001 handheld dimensions

Pocket PC device (intro date)

Height (in.)

Width (in.)

Depth (in.)

Weight (oz.)

Compaq IPAQ H3150 (1/2001)

5.11

3.28

0.62

5.8

HP Jornada 525 (4/2001)

5.2

3.1

0.7

8

Casio Cassiopeia E-125 (9/2000)

5.2

3.3

0.8

9

Table 1-3. Palm and licensee 2000 and 2001 handheld dimensions

Palm OS devices (intro date)

Height (in.)

Width (in.)

Depth (in.)

Weight (oz.)

Palm m505 (4/2001)

4.5

3.1

0.5

5.1

Palm m500 (4/2001)

4.5

3.1

0.4

4

Handspring Visor Edge (3/2001)

4.7

3.1

0.4

4.8

Notice that these Pocket PCs are only about as small as the biggest Palm devices, and aren’t even close in size to the slimmer handhelds.

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