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Web-Based Organizers

Wed Feb 21, 2001 - 9:16 AM EST - By Alan Graham

If you aren't familiar with web-based organizers, let me give you a brief introduction. Often called a web calendar or even PIM (Personal Information Manager), a web-based organizer allows you to enter and view your contact and calendar information on a website, just like on your handheld. Interesting idea? At first I thought so. I mean, I always found it an interesting service, although I never actually used one myself. This has been a difficult review to write. It started out as a look at the MyPalm web-based organizer service. It then became a comparative review of several similar services that could sync with the Visor and Palm OS. However, once I started the comparison, (with the exception of one particular service) it just got depressing. After spending about an hour jumping from service to service, I realized why I never used a web-based organizer. It's a dumb idea!

Now before I get 300 flame mails from die-hard users, I want you to know that I am not here to debate the general merits of a web-organizer. I am here to discuss the merits in how it relates to handheld users. So let me ask you handheld users out there 3 questions:

Q: If you have a handheld device and you carry that device with you everywhere, why do you need to have that data accessible from a web site?

Doesn't this defeat the idea of carrying a handheld? I recently had my Visor stitched to my side (I am happy to report the scars are healing nicely), but for you less enthusiastic users, are you going to be jogging without your handheld and think, "Jeez I wish I had the number for Luigi's Pizza handy. Where's the nearest cyber-cafe?"

Q: Why do you want to keep a copy of your most sensitive data up on some "strangers" server?

Sure, their tech guys will tell you that it is absolutely safe, however, any hacker will tell you otherwise. Just go pick up a copy of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly, at your local bookstore. Hackers provide a very valuable service for whenever we start feeling a little too smug. I regularly read this publication to keep my technological modesty in check. Everytime I read it I am in awe, "Wow, you can do that?" With all the system outages, Denial of Service/Hacker attacks, demographic profiling and companies who "accidentally" release private information (oops), do you really want the phone number and banking info of your offshore accounts up there? I really doubt the folks over at Handspring keep their top secret Visor development notes over on the MyPalm site.

Q: Is this progress?

Just because you can do something doesn't mean it is reasonable to do it. The fact that Palm, for example, would divert millions of dollars in resources to develop a service that won't drive the sale of new Palm devices (like an investment in making the Palm device better) is beyond my comprehension. In the past two years we have seen countless web-based organizers bite the dust. Why? Because we have become a society of people who get edgy if we have to wait more than 3 minutes to get a latte. We are so addicted to the "instant on" aspect of accessing information at any time, that they had to build a light into the handheld. I mean you never know when you could be out in a field somewhere at night and need the number of your accountant. Web-based applications and services take time. More time than most of us are willing to spend. I will admit that there are some great features and compelling arguments for access to your information at any time. However, I don't see that the web technology is compelling enough at this point to make it worth the worry over safety and reliability concerns.

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