I started a new business and I need to be able to get email, dl excel docs, pdfs and jpgs. After they are downloaded, I need to be able to print them out. The kicker is I have to be able to do this in my car. What is my best option. Laptop, blackberry or another pda? I'm not really familiar with what the above are capable of doing so any input would be great. I also need to be able to do this without the use of a hotspot if possible. So what companies are out there with the best coverage. I live in the Bay Area (Calif.) if that helps. Any links or suggestions? Thanks a TON!
I'd recommend a laptop and a printer. The laptop can run off battery most of the time, and the printer can run from the car's cigarette lighter with an adapter. Canon make a decent portable inkjet (last ones we bought at work were the BJC-85 but they refresh the model every now and then) which packs up nicely.
In terms of wireless connectivity, I don't know what's available in California. Down here I'd be suggesting one of the companies that offers a PCMCIA card with some sort of wireless broadband attached; you can get speeds from about 150 kbps to 1 Mbps. If you can find a company that offers that sort of stuff and has good coverage where you are, that should take care of it.
There are PDA printers out there, but although you can view native Word/Excel/etc files, PDA versions of word and excel are usually reformatted to fit the screen and a lot of the features inherent in MS Office are missing. This is OK if you control the format of your files and can work around the limitations (or only use simple files) but it really depends what you need them for. I frequently use my Treo for word/excel, and hotsync it with my desktop or laptop. (The hotsync process updates whatever changes you've made to either file.) Also, the PDA printers I've seen all had output on what looks like register tape. In short, you can do it, but it would be clumsy and probably not quite what you're looking for.
If you need to print stuff out in your car, I'd recommend getting a wireless mobile card so you can always be online, and a portable printer. (Rates vary, but I know verizon charges $55/month for the service, and the others probably less.) When in a hotspot, it would use wifi for access vice the wireless card. Inverters are cheap and they require little power, so you can run it all from your cigarette-lighter, no problem. Or even just a normal inkjet printer.
Thanks guys for the info. This is exactly what I was looking for. Sounds like a laptop and portable printer is the way I will have to go. I will be needing to receive, view, adjust and then print out excel docs and it seems that you guys are saying the best way to do this is the laptop route. I don't want to run into any format problems or problems in general right now while I'm setting up this business. I'm already a Verizon user so I'll look into what they have to offer as far as some type of wireless data plan. Thanks again.
Get a "Centrino" or Turion64 notebook. They will be more suited for battery life, while still performing very well. Centrino books have the best battery life, while Turions don't last quite as long on a charge, but are a bit cheaper ($200 or so).