The PalmPilot is small, light, and focused in purpose, but those are only part of its appeal. It’s also a hit because:
Older models can be found for $100 or less; the middle of the line remains around $250; and even the wireless high-end machine, the PalmPilot VII, costs less than a fraction of a laptop’s price. Everything is included: software, the cradle that connects the PalmPilot to your PC, and the synchronization software.
A pair of AAA batteries lasts most people a month or more of using the PalmPilot every day. Weeks? The average laptop battery won’t run three hours. Even black-and-white Windows CE palmtops conk out after a week or so.
A single press of a single button brings your PC and your PalmPilot up to date with each other. Every name, address, appointment, or note you’ve jotted into your PalmPilot gets transferred to your PC—and vice versa—literally with the press of that single button. You can even synchronize your data on the road, by dialing into your home computer with a PalmPilot modem.
For example, when you’re writing names and addresses, the PalmPilot capitalizes names automatically. And the day-at-a-glance calendar view concatenates empty hours, so that your entire day’s agenda fits on one screen.
The PalmPilot comes with address-book, note-taking, and calendar programs for your desktop computer—software that exactly matches the software built into the PalmPilot. But most people already have calendar and address-book software. Fortunately, you can buy conduit software (plug-in modules that synchronize data with the PalmPilot’s built-in programs) for almost any PC calendar or address book program, including Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Schedule+, Lotus Organizer, Sidekick, ECCO Professional, Now Up-To-Date, Franklin Ascend, Day-Timer Organizer, Act!, GoldMine, Maximizer, and so on.
Such connectivity is, at long last, available to the Macintosh, too. Legions of Mac fans have embraced the PalmPilot as a result; after all, Windows CE palmtops can’t talk to Macs at all.
3Com and US Robotics, the companies that created the PalmPilot, made it easy to write software for this machine. As a result, over 12,000 amateur and professional programmers are busily cranking out every conceivable kind of add-on software for the PalmPilot. Because they’re written for the Palm OS, these programs tend to be especially fast, cleanly designed, and small; there’s no such thing as a lengthy download of Palm software from the Internet! (You’ll find many of these add-on programs on the CD-ROM that comes with this book.)
The PalmPilot is the ultimate conversation-starter. On the train, on the plane, in the hallway—if somebody’s using a PalmPilot, you’ve got a friend. Few other gadgets in the world have spawned so much obsessive behavior: there are PalmPilot web pages, PalmPilot conventions, and PalmPilot discussion groups on the Internet. There are also thousands of accessories, add-ons, and replacement components, from gold-plated inkless pens to calfskin carrying cases. You’ll read more about them later in this book.