BBC working with Microsoft for PDA roll out

A blueprint for PDA management? We wish we could tell you...

A blueprint for PDA management? We wish we could tell you...

The BBC hasn't run like a technophobe from PDAs, often introduced through the 'back door' by employees, but is working with major vendors to find out how best to manage and benefit from handheld devices. That's according to two of the largest companies in the PDA market, and comes on the back of revelations at the start of the year showing the Corporation was questioning its commitment to handheld devices in general and specifically to non-Microsoft-based products. The leading supplier of handheld PDAs, Palm Inc, has been involved in a "sensible and mature meeting with [the BBC's] IT department", that company's UK MD, Tim Mahne told silicon.com. "It is obvious users want these devices," he said, and that they will buy and introduce them personally given a lack of a corporate IT policy. However, the broadcaster is engaged in an ongoing trial with Palm rival Microsoft, to work out the best way to move forward. Devices based on Microsoft's PocketPC operating system are being trialled by end users, managed by the IT function and monitored by a compliance manager, silicon.com has learnt. +ss+Many companies are concerned about the use of PDAs, which connect to corporate networks via hot-syncing cradles or wireless connections, because of a drain on desktop IT support, the ability for corporate data to go missing and other issues. David Hooper, enterprise sales manager for Microsoft's mobile devices division, declined to talk about the BBC specifically. However, he points to Microsoft's Mobile Workplace framework which attempts to encourage enterprise PDA use by reducing complexity, simplifying support and reducing costs. The clear aim is that corporates see a return on investment while feeling secure in employees' handheld usage. He said: "We often hear about PDAs coming in through the back door and IT support being asked if they can be connected to Exchange data. Organisations need to take control of that situation. Now pretty much everyone accepts you need a framework for [PDA usage]." The BBC declined to comment for this story but insiders say that despite perceived problems at the start of the year, PDA usage internally remains quite low. The most common use of handheld computers is among those BBC new media staffers developing content for mobile platforms. However, the major issue is whether the Corporation should be spending licence fee payers' money on the technology. Palm's Mahne added: "They don't understand usage, inasmuch as whether they can use licence fee funds to give their staff PDAs. They need to see benefits over a 12 to 18 month trial."