March 24, 1997 10:00 AM ET
Handheld PCs cause support conundrum
By Mark Moore

  Handheld PCs are wedging their way into the enterprise, coming in through the back door with advanced capabilities targeting corporate use. As the devices start to proliferate, IS managers face a major issue: how to support them.

To help solve this dilemma, Compaq Computer Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. are developing enterprise management and support tools with the next generation of their Windows CE-based handhelds. The tools will enable IS managers to remotely administer handheld PCs just as they do corporate notebooks, desktops and servers.

The ability to remotely manage handheld PCs, and manage systems from the handhelds, will go a long way toward their acceptance in enterprise environments.

"I can do everything necessary in the way of maintenance from the Windows CE device, ranging from killing a job to bringing the system down and rebooting," said Don Hergert, senior programmer/ analyst at Loma Linda University Medical Center, in Loma Linda, Calif. "To be able to do it on a Windows CE platform that is so compact to carry around is key."

Hergert uses Casio Ltd.'s Cassiopeia handheld PC running Symantec Corp.'s pcAnywhere CE communications software to remotely manage a store-and-forward server system at the medical center.

Compaq is extending its Intelligent Manageability software to encompass its Windows CE-based PC Companion and is creating a set of agents that will enable network managers to view the handhelds as if they were nodes on the network, said officials at the Houston-based PC manufacturer.

The tools will include AssetControl capabilities, with which administrators can maintain an accurate, up-to-date inventory of PC Companions and their components by remotely polling a specific device's serial number and track which version of the operating system and firmware it is running.

Separately, HP may incorporate its OpenView for Windows management software onto its HP 300LX palmtop PC, officials acknowledged last week. OpenView for Windows provides a single console for managing and monitoring SNMP- and Web-enabled devices on the network and provides a visual status of the devices in color.

HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., also has had discussions with Symantec to bundle pcAnywhere CE on the 300LX. The $79.95 software lets mobile users and network administrators alike manage servers, desktops or notebook PCs remotely from a Windows CE-based handheld device.

U.S. Robotics Corp. also is entering the fray, developing new programs and support tools for its PalmPilot line of Connected Organizers, said company officials in Skokie, Ill.

U.S. Robotics will release in May a software development kit for Version 2.0 of its Palm OS that lets Windows developers create applications using Microsoft Corp.'s Visual C++ environment.

The applications will run on the PalmPilot, which recently gained such network-enabled features as TCP/IP support and the ability for users to remotely synchronize data via LANs, WANs or the Internet. (See "PalmPilot goes professional.")

As handheld devices gain such sophisticated features, they are more apt to infiltrate corporate LANs, forcing IS into a plan to manage and control the devices.

"It's a Trojan horse in many corporations, coming in through all kinds of places," said Ed Colligan, vice president for Palm Computing Inc., a subsidiary of U.S. Robotics, in Mountain View, Calif., referring to the PalmPilot. "We want to make IS feel as comfortable as the CEO who brought [these devices] in the door."

Finding support for handhelds

Handheld device
Compaq Computer PC Companion Extending Intelligent Manageability with set of agents for remotely polling serial numbers and tracking versions of OS and firmware.
Hewlett-Packard HP 800LX Considering incorporating either HP OpenView tools for managing and monitoring palmtop PCs on the network or bundling Symantec's pcAnywhere CE software for remotely managing desktop and notebooks from handheld PCs.
U.S. Robotics Palm Pilot Connected Organizer SDK for Palm OS Version 2.0, due in May; enables Windows developers to create applications using Visual C++.

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