The annual cost for equipment and support for a single handheld device could reach US$3,000, according to a report released last week by Gartner. That's up from the $2,500 per user the researcher reported in 1999.
Making that same device work wirelessly could bump up the per-user annual cost to more than $4,300, according to the market research firm.
That analysis doesn't surprise Marc Rohde, IT manager at USFilter/Plymouth Products. He said a $3,000 price tag for handhelds without wireless connectivity "might be about right" when support and administration costs such as training are included. Total cost of ownership "is a major concern," he said.
Although enterprises vary on how they use handhelds, most agree that supporting them isn't cheap. Forrester Research, calculated last year that an enterprise could spend $2,000 per year on a user who has a new handheld device with 300 minutes of wireless data access per month and two custom integrated applications.
Handheld and wireless costs can be much higher than enterprise IT managers are prepared to pay, said Forrester analyst Frank Gillett.
"IT managers are in for a rude surprise when they start to do big deployments," he said. "It's not only the cost of the gear, but the support."
Gartner analyst Phillip Redman studied several devices (see chart). At the high end, a wireless handheld's hardware and software annual costs could be more than $2,500, with administration, support and operations bringing the total to $4,342. In comparison, a smart phone with wireless voice and data functions could cost $1,369.
"Enterprises are looking at issues like return on investment but often overlook essential components" of cost, Redman `said.