Handhelds take a $5000 bite at IT budgets

Analysts and IT professionals believe the spiralling cost of purchasing handheld computers for employees is creating budget havoc.

As more companies turn to buying handheld computers for employees, Gartner claims IT shops will find it can cost as much as $5278 ($US3000) per year per user for service, software and hardware.

And taking a handheld device into the wireless realm can push that $5000 cost up to nearly $8000 ($US4400), with service fees and additional hardware and support.

Gartner based its findings on hundreds of enterprise customers and, in a statement, advised companies to evaluate these costs against total benefits, including increased worker productivity.

Simon Huggard, systems librarian at Monash University, said, "Bigger and better handhelds keep coming out which are more and more useful, but more expensive."

Huggard agrees companies need to evaluate the costs against total benefits, including increased worker productivity.

"These devices are useful, but they don't necessarily make staff more productive. Often it just means not having to carry around a diary and some extra pieces of paper."

It also means staff can spend more time playing with them, he said, downloading content from the Internet, syncing with a local calendar client, entering and re-entering data.

Huggard said he does not expect to purchase any handheld computers for employees this year, but maybe next year.

"I think they are useful as a replacement for a diary, synchronised with the local online calendar client, and for having some documents stored for meetings, but not much else.

"I allocated only $4000 to purchase a few of these, but it was knocked back by the divisional manager. However, a new head of the division has arrived who uses a PDA. This may influence some changes in work practice in the second half of this year," Huggard said.

He said the university has not yet evaluated the costs of handhelds against total benefits, including increased worker productivity.

"We just think productivity won't be affected enough to warrant purchasing PDAs for a lot of staff."

Gartner also noted that handhelds will be only one of several devices road warriors and other workers who travel or telecommute use that will require IT support. Workers typically carry a mobile phone, laptop and handheld.

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