A handheld computer that is programmed for functions such as keeping track of appointments, sending and receiving e-mail, browsing the Internet, composing memos, performing spreadsheet calculations, managing contacts, banking, and viewing stock quotes.
Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) typically have a small, grayscale liquid crystal display (LCD) with either a small keyboard or a pen-based user interface for entering data. Information can be exchanged with a desktop or laptop PC by using a docking cradle, serial port, or infrared (IR) communication port, depending on the model. A PDA’s processing power is similar to that of a 386 processor, and its memory is limited to a few megabytes (but is sometimes expandable). Many PDAs also support standard or even wireless modems for sending and receiving e-mail or accessing specialized Internet content.
Some PDAs run a proprietary operating system. For example, 3Com’s Palm Pilot runs Palm OS; about 7500 developers produce software for this platform. One of the earliest PDAs was the Apple Newton. Other PDAs run Microsoft Windows CE, a version of the Windows operating system for devices with a small screen and a nonstandard user interface. Microsoft offers Windows CE versions of many of its popular applications, including Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Internet Explorer.
PDA management is becoming an increasingly important job for network administrators. It’s often a good idea to standardize the type of PDA that is used in a company to reduce the headache and overhead of administering multiple PDA-to-PC software interfaces.