To emphasise the point, palmOne has bundled an application to synchronise My Documents with the LifeDrive. The T5â€™s Drive Mode is still here, but this time it is specifically for sharing files with computers that donâ€™t have the synching software installed, such as a work computer if you synchronise at home. In this case your LifeDrive becomes a USB storage device.
Youâ€™ll want to use that data, right? For professionals the superb Documents to Go is on ROM so you can create native Word and Excel documents. Yah, boo, sucks Word Mobile and Excel Mobile (the new names for the slightly feature-enhanced versions of Word and Excel in Windows Mobile 5).
And thereâ€™s another clever use for the memory. Camera Companion copies digital images and videos from an SD card thatâ€™s been used in a camera. I hadnâ€™t thought of using a PDA as an â€˜in-betweenâ€™ store when my digital camera card gets full, but itâ€™s actually a pretty good idea. Of course my Canon Ixus 500 uses Compact Flash, but thatâ€™s my problemâ€¦â€¦
Music is the other obvious use for all that memory. There is a 3.5mm headphone jack, and music output from Pocket Tunes (the RealPlayer is gone) to my trusty Sennheiser folding headphones was, in PDA terms, superb. Who needs an iPod when your PDA is memory-rich and pushes out nice quality sounds?
At last palmOne has seen fit to include WiFi, something Palm fans have been hankering for. Remember Riyadâ€™s comments about this in his review of the less than well received T5? He and I have discussed WiFi at some length, on more than one occasion, including with palmOne executives â€“ both of us failing to understand the companyâ€™s reluctance to throw WiFi into its devices as a standard component. Itâ€™s here now though, and not a moment too soon, and it took me 20 seconds to find my access point and start browsing the Web with my review device. (Bluetooth is here too, naturally).
There are, of course, some things I donâ€™t like about the LifeDrive. Well, come on â€“ if it were perfect Iâ€™d hang up my quillpen right now and get an allotment instead of evaluating technology. First off, I wonder why the battery is not removable. It is a backward step not to allow users the chance to buy a spare cell.
And I wonder about the memory itself. The memory is provided by a Microdrive. Itâ€™s mechanical. I had one of these as a CF card once, from IBM, and it gave me about six months of use before it broke (I've used one for five years and it's still going - Ed). That was a journalist sample, so I hadnâ€™t lost any money on it, but would I want one as the main memory in a device I have shelled out for? I am really tempted to buy a LifeDrive (other journalists may cringe at the thought of using my own cash for kit, but Iâ€™m just like that), but I might wait and see how the drives perform in the real world first.
Mostly, though, I am a fan of the LifeDrive in both concept and in execution. Whatâ€™s exciting is that having announced a product category rather than just a singe product I can only assume that there is more to come in a similar vein.
While we await palmOneâ€™s next move I think itâ€™s fair to say that in the skirmish which involved Microsoft announcing an update to its platform and palmOne announcing a new category of device, palmOne has moved ahead, to use a horseracing analogy, by a short neck. Game on.