Monday, April 9, 2007

End of the line for Dell Axim series, I'm getting a laptop

Well, I can't say I'm surprised to see that Dell is no longer selling Axim PDAs on its website. While Dell has never been an innovator in the Windows Mobile space, for a few years it did a remarkable job of presenting the latest technology at the lowest price.

Dell wasn't the first company to offer a Pocket PC with slots for SD cards and CompactFlash cards and XScale processors. But in 2002, the Dell Axim X5 was by far the cheapest PDA around with all of those features.

A short while later, Dell released the X3 series, then the X30 series. These took all the goodness of the X5 line, shrunk the package, and added WiFi and Bluetooth support in the higher end models. Oh yeah, and a 624MHz processor. Again, Dell wasn't the first company to offer these goodies, but they did so for about $100 cheaper than HP or anyone else.

I held onto my X5 during this period, because it had served me well. But when the X50 series I started drooling. Here was a PDA that was at least as thin and light as the X30, but it came in a far more attractive package. And the top of the line X50v had a full VGA screen. Still, I resisted.

But when Farrah started grad school and we moved to Princeton, I was suddenly presented with a very long commute. And that was a good enough excuse to pick up a VGA PDA. Hey, I'd be using it to read the paper and watch movies on the train every day! So I picked up a used X50v from an Aximsite user who was waiting for his Windows Mobile 5.0 upgrade CD in the mail. I'd decided to stick with the X50v because it was a little cheaper than the newer X51v, and because I'd have the option to choose between operating systems.

I'm still very happy with my X50v, and have no urge to upgrade to a Smartphone right now. There are no Windows Mobile PDAs with a higher resolution screen or faster processor right now. The only downside to keeping my X50v is that it won't run some of the newest software.

Nevertheless, it's sad to see the Axim line fall by the wayside. While other companies were always the ones to push the limits of what a tiny device can do, Dell has done a great job of making the technology affordable.

It looks like consumers are demanding that their tiny computers now be incorporated into phones, and I guess Dell just didn't want to branch out to telephone just yet. Maybe they will one day.

In the meantime, I expect I'll keep my X50v for at least a few more years. It fits easily into my pocket, giving me a chance to listen to music, read the paper, or connect to a WiFi hotspot wherever I go. For heftier lifting, I plan to pick up a laptop soon. I still think there are situations where a PDA is more convenient. Because it's so light, I can take it with me wherever I go. I won't be doing that with my laptop. And no laptop boots up as quickly as a PDA for taking quick notes, jotting down a grocery list, or checking a calendar or phone number.

But you also can't run full desktop applications on a PDA.

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