Palm Pilot basics

Rating: NNNNNFor all their high-end toys, the folks at Palm Pilot have been far more successful at getting Claudia Schiffer.

Rating: NNNNN

For all their high-end toys, the folks at Palm Pilot have been far more successful at getting Claudia Schiffer endorsements than snagging the youth market.

With an average price above $500, their powerful hand-held organizers have appealed strictly to jet-setting business types, who need — or at least have convinced themselves they need — remote access to e-mail and all the bells and whistles of a desktop computer between their thumb and pinkie. The average person with a datebook and address list has been left out.

In the meantime, Palm has been scooped on the low-end scale by Visor, a company launched by former Palm designers whose budget hand-helds begin at $150.

Palm’s response is the m100, a similarly priced, bare-bones electronic organizer aimed squarely at young buyers.

In many ways, the m100 is the iMac of hand-held organizers. It’s compact and sharply designed, with a detachable faceplate that comes in four different colours. It’s an easy-to-operate machine, geared primarily for use as a datebook and address holder.

It also links up easily with your desktop computer through a “hot sync” cable, meaning that the notes you make on the screen can be backed up at home in a few seconds.

The m100 is a fun and handy device. Like the real iMac, though, it looks good but can be very basic in some crucial ways.

Opportunities for expansion are scarce, and limited memory and no real Internet access mean that, for all its promise, the m100 is not much more than a $150 digital notebook with a screen that can be hard to read indoors.

By the time you master Palm’s on-screen graffiti language — like shorthand but less abstract — you’ll find yourself wanting more.

The basics are fine for folks who just want a fancy replacement for their paper datebook, but those hoping to take advantage of the possibilities of a mobile office — remote e-mail access and full online capabilities, for example — will soon want to upgrade to a more substantial hand-held machine.

A solid starter, but anyone other than the purely curious would be better off splashing out for the real deal.

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