Why the Tungsten T5 resulted in my switching to Pocket PC

I purchased the first of 16 Palm OS devices, the Palm III, in 1998, and until the T5 experience, I championed the platform. Prior to the T5, I enjoyed the Palm OS experience, particularly the ease of use, stability, and plethora of available third party apps. I only considered the Pocket PC a technically interesting platform that I did not desire to use as my daily device. Before relating the specifics of the T5 experience, a summary of my Pocket PC experience is in order.

My first Pocket PC, an Audiovox Maestro, was purchased the same day I purchased my 7th Palm OS device, a Sony Clie NR70V. My technical curiosity had been piqued by the Pocket PC platform; however, until the Maestro, the devices were too expensive to purchase just to satisfy a technical curiosity. I had heard the horror stories about the alleged instability of both the Pocket PC devices and ActiveSync; however, my experience was the complete opposite. I found both the Maestro and ActiveSync to be very stable, and I was impressed with the overall experience. The experience was much more computer like than the Palm OS devices, and I was also impressed with the robust Pocket PC applications that were available. The Maestro had both SD and CF slots. My first accessory was a Socket CF Wi-Fi card that installed without any problems. Within 5 minutes of installing the Socket drivers, I was ActiveSyncing via Wi-Fi, and surfing the web/checking email with the Maestro via Wi-Fi using my home Apple Airport based network. The NR70V did not have that ability; there was no memory stick Wi-Fi card at the time. My only experience with Wi-Fi on a Palm OS device at that time was with a very expensive Wi-Fi SpringBoard module on a Visor Prism. Although I got the SpringBoard Wi-Fi module to work after a lot of trial and error, the experience was not close to the positive and rewarding experience of using the Socket Wi-Fi on the Maestro. Although the Maestro is not my primary Pocket PC device today, I still use it, and am still very satisfied with the overall Maestro experience.

Now, the specific complaints with the Tungsten T5:
My experience is that PDA's implement Murphy's Law by hard crashing when you are not near your computer at a time when you need the device for a critical task. A recent full backup on the appropriate format storage card is essential. My favorite backup program, BackupMan, could not complete a backup without the T5 crashing. I checked the website for the vendor, and they indicated that some OS problems had to be corrected before their software would work properly. I tried four other backup solutions, and the result was the same - crash, crash, crash, crash. Although the crashes only required a soft reset, the lack of being able to have a current full backup on the SD card was unacceptable.

Because I have so many Palm OS and Pocket PC devices, my favorite method of sharing data files is to upload the files to NAS devices which are turned on 24/7. When I need a current version of a file, the file is downloaded from the NAS to the PDA using File Explorer on the Pocket PC, or FilePoint on the Palm OS devices. On the T3 with the Palm Wi-Fi card, I would receive a "converting file" message for about 2 seconds after downloading a 300K file to the Palm OS device. With the T5 using the Palm Wi-Fi card, I would receive the "converting file" message for 40 seconds or more after downloading that same 300K file. This time increase from 2 seconds to 40 seconds was totally unacceptable, and no fix was available.

The overall stability problems, combined with two critical apps not working properly on the T5, resulted in the T5 becoming a dust collector on my desk due to lack of use. Rather than reverting back to an older Palm OS device, I decided to give the Pocket PC a whirl to ascertain if the Pocket PC could be a good daily device. The rest is, as they say, history. I started using the iPAQ 4155 as my daily device, and loved it. The iPAQ 4155 has a small form factor, built-in bluetooth and Wi-Fi, a fast processor, 64 MB memory, replaceable battery, and a nice style. The HP iPAQ 4155 is also very stable, and my two critical applications, backup to SD card and file transfer to/from NAS, work great with the applications that were included with the device. I have several VGA devices: the Toshiba e805, Toshiba e830, Dell Axim x50V, and Dell Axim x51v. As much as I enjoy the VGA devices, the iPAQ 4155 is the PDA I usually take with me when I travel because of its small form factor. When I purchased a Smartphone, I purchased the Treo 700w because it had the Windows Mobile OS. The Treo 700w was replaced by a PPC-6700, another Windows Mobile based Smartphone. Although I have numerous devices with newer versions of Windows Mobile, the iPAQ 4155 is definitely still one of my favorite devices. Although I purchased TextMaker, PlanMaker, and NetFront3, I have found the included Pocket Word, Excel, and Explorer apps meet most of my needs, and I rarely have to use the more fully featured apps.

A ROM update for the T5 was finally released about 8 months after I purchased the T5. The backup program works OK now, and the transfer of files from the NAS works much better, but still not as fast as the T3. The stability of the T5 has improved, although it is still not as stable as I would like. I can understand a month or two to get a ROM update to correct major stability and compatibility problems with the T5; however, 8 months is not acceptable, particularly when there are competent alternative devices available. The eight months that the T5 was basically a dust collector on my desk due to it stability and compatibility problems resulted in my trying the competing platform for my daily device. After 8 months of use, I was hooked on the Pocket PC as my daily device. Although it is possible, I do not see myself going back to a Palm OS daily device anytime soon. If the initial version of the T5 was more stable, and my critical apps worked OK (or I had different critical apps that worked OK), I probably would still be using a Palm OS device today as my primary device.

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