Digital devices complement PCs

Mobile computing is going mainstream as handheld devices become more task-specific and professionals use them increasingly as an extension of their desktop PCs, according to speakers at the recent Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) conference.

"Mobile computing devices are becoming application-specific," said Vinny Luciano, director of product management at Symbol Technologies, which provides data transaction systems, selling 550,000 handheld computers in 1998. "Companies are taking computing to where the work is being done."

PDAs have come a long way and now have the capabilities not only to retrieve data but to process transactions, Luciano said.

"There are huge shifts on the way for enterprise IT," said Jacob Christfort, Oracle's director of product management and marketing. Corporations are shifting away from the constraints of the PC and combining mobile and Internet computing to give users access to large amounts of shared data, he said.

According to Christfort, there are 32 million mobile users worldwide today - a third of the total work force. Oracle, which defines a mobile user as anyone who is away from their desk 20 per cent of the time and uses an information appliance, sees the percentage rising to 75 per cent by 2000.