By Steve Wildstrom Reader Eric Husgen sends a well-timed question about personal digital assistants: Can you recommend a PDA for basic calendar and contact features that will sync well with Outlook? My employer won't pay for wireless e-mail. I don't need a PDA phone or digital camera. Pocket-friendly is nice, but not mandatory.Your timing is very good. On Oct. 12, Palm (PALM) introduced two new products. Either might meet your needs. If you want a minimalist approach, the $99 Z22 is designed mainly for basic contact and calendar work and will sync with Outlook or Palm Desktop. It has a color screen, 32 megabytes of memory, and weighs just 3.4 ounces.
At the other end of the line, the new $299 T|X is a more business-oriented model, with both wireless fidelity, or Wi-Fi, and short-range Bluetooth wireless. Wi-Fi can act as sort of a poor man's wireless e-mail service, allowing you to pick up mail in locales where Wi-Fi is available without the cost of a monthly cell-phone subscription. Bluetooth is useful mainly in conjunction with a phone, letting you dial numbers from contacts listed in the Palm.
NO DATA DRAIN. The T|X has a big, bright color screen and 128 MB of so-called nonvolatile memory, which is included in a lot of newer Palms and will retain its contents indefinitely, even if the battery is allowed to run down completely.
Another option at the high end of that range is Palm's Tungsten E2, whose price was recently reduced by $50, to $199. The Tungsten E2 offers features similar to the T|X, but with only 32 MB of nonvolatile memory (which is way more than enough for contacts and calendar) and no Wi-Fi.
If you're interested in a Pocket PC, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) has just introduced the $295 iPAQ rx1950, one of the first to use the new Windows Mobile 5 software. The new iPAQ comes with Wi-Fi and includes 96 MB of memory, 33 MB of which is nonvolatile, so it too will hold data without power.
Wildstrom is Technology & You columnist for BusinessWeek. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org