by Bud Berrett

I have in my hand a Cassiopeia Windows CE computer. I had this in my hand when I ordered the 3Com PalmPilot Professional. Why would I buy a Pilot when I already own a Windows CE box? Because the Pilot tries to be what it is, and in my opinion, the Windows CE machines try to be more than they are.

Is It Christmas Yet?
I remember when I first ordered my Cassiopeia CE machine. I was as anxious as a kid on Christmas Eve. I couldn’t wait to type on the miniature keyboard and to read email on the miniature screen. I wanted to put all my “to dos” and contacts in there right now!
The day it came I was ecstatic. I opened the box and powered it up. It was everything I had hoped for. Sure the screen was hard to see at certain angles and the keyboard took some getting used to. It did seem to take ages to load programs but what can you expect? The thing fits in your shirt pocket.

The Day After Christmas
Do you remember how you felt as a child the day after Christmas? Sure you had some great new toys, but did any of them really live up to your expectations? Did the months of dreaming about Christmas day make it difficult for the day to live up to your dreams? That’s how I felt with my CE machine.

I was using it daily and it seemed to perform the operations I was asking it to perform, but…
Cassiopeia was really too big to carry around in your pocket all day — it felt bulkier and heavier with each passing moment. The screen was not as good as it really should be. The programs in the machine were too robust for a hand held battery operated machine. Of course while these observations are all only my humble opinion, I was quickly realizing that Windows CE was imitating a Laptop computer but lacked the muscle to fulfill its dream.

What Now?
I was just about at the end of my rope with this thing weighting down one side of my shirt when I saw a friend using a PalmPilot. It was small, it seemed to do the task he was using it for and I could read the screen from where I stood. I asked if I could see the Pilot and he obliged. I recognized the feeling, was it Christmas yet?

But “hold on” you say, am I really going to fall into the same trap as before? Was I really going to get all psyched up about some gadget only to be let down when it couldn’t meet my expectations? No. I began to research the Pilot. I looked up every article I could find. I read reviews, commentaries, opinions, etc… I found that there wasn’t a single Pilot user who was publicly expressing anything but delight at what they had found. I ordered the Pilot.

Christmas Day
When the Pilot arrived I was again ecstatic. I tried every tool in the machine and found more available for download from the Internet. I looked at it with a much more skeptical eye than I had the CE machine. To my surprise it wasn’t letting me down. You see, the PalmPilot was trying to be a portable organizer. Something it could be. Something that technology would allow of a machine that fit in the palm of your hand.

I realized then that you need to analyze what it is you want a tool to do. Then find a tool that fulfills those needs very well, instead of a tool that fills those needs and a couple dozen others with mediocrity.

If you want a machine that will fit in a briefcase (not your pocket), a machine integrates well with Microsoft Office, a machine that comes with a keyboard and a Windows style interface, a machine that you don’t mind waiting for software to boot and a machine with a bad screen, then get a Windows CE box. If you can find happiness in a machine that does a whole truckload of tasks but none really efficiently, then you will probably be happy with a Windows CE machine.

If, on the other hand (or palm), you want a machine that will do task lists, address books, calendar check and send email, you want a PalmPilot. If you want a machine that has a very easy to read screen, a backlight that won’t shut off every time you stop typing for a second, you want a PalmPilot. If you want a box that will, indeed, fit comfortably in your shirt pocket, then you want a PalmPilot.