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How Portable Internet Devices Work


Problems with Portable Internet Devices
Portable Internet devices like the Lifebook U810 from Fujitsu feature a keyboard that slides out from the screen.
Portable Internet devices like the Lifebook U810 from Fujitsu feature a keyboard that slides out from the screen.
Image courtesy of Fujitsu

Problems with portable Internet devices may convince you that another option, like a smartphone or a laptop, works better for your needs. Or you may choose one portable Internet device over another based on reviews. Issues to consider include: software company compatibility, power limitations, duplication of existing technology, speed and cost.

UMPCs are not a new concept, just one that never succeeded before. Early portable devices were expensive for the limited functions they offered and had the added disadvantage of short battery life. The arrival of broadband brought speed to the portable Web device, increasing its usefulness and appealing to consumers looking for a fast, easy way to access information or communicate away from home or the office [source: CBC News].

But some problems remain, software compatibility among them. Portable devices of all sorts run simplified versions of software because of their size and screen limitations. As you go from the office to the road, how compatible is the software you use every day on your PC with the version on your portable Internet device? And if your portable device uses software from another company, how compatible is that with your PC?

Power limitations also may still be a deterrent to getting a portable Internet device. With most devices offering three or fewer hours of battery power, a portable device may not have the juice to keep pace with you during a full-day meeting or cross-country trip.

Duplication of existing technology comes into play in comparing portable Internet devices to smartphones or laptops. If you can use your phone for IMing, e-mails, file transfers and Web surfing, for example, do you need a portable Internet device to duplicate those functions?

Even with broadband connections, portable Internet devices may lack the speed of a PC or laptop in downloading large documents or performing other Web functions. Speed remains an issue with these portable devices.

Deciding whether to buy a portable Internet device may simply come down to whether you want to carry around another device. If you're carrying a BlackBerry or iPhone, and a laptop, that may be enough. But if portable Internet devices can provide the same functions as these other devices at a reasonable cost and with adequate power, maybe portable Web devices will become replacements, not extra baggage.

For lots more information about portable Internet devices and related topics, check out the links on the next page.