I am a known PDA/gadget junkie and having used devices with WinCE PPC2002/2003/SE and PalmOS 3.5/4/5 for years, I thought I should write a comparison article between PocketPCs and Palm/Clies (there's no comparison between PalmOS 6 & Windows Mobile 5 as these are not available on real commercial devices yet).
Let's start first with Windows Mobile and PocketPCs.
1. It has some form of protected memory and so when applications crash the OS stays alive (well, most of the time).
2. OS looks better, more modern, than PalmOS. Support for Clear Type.
3. It has good support for the Exchange server that most businesses care about.
4. Internet Explorer and Outlook are more robust than WebPro, Mail and Blazer.
5. More input options than PalmOS (e.g. transcriber, speech addon from MS).
6. "Today" default screen more relevant than "Applications" (because of the very nature of PDAs in the business world).
7. WMA/WMV and ASF built-in support.
8. Automatic support for USB host connector, when available.
9. Runs on faster XScale hardware than PalmOS usually.
10. DirectX/3D support, more multimedia capable.
11. Apps use the full 320x240 resolution (instead of the 160x160 that most PalmOS apps use and double-pixel at 320x320).
12. Able to run more complex games, some 3D games too.
11. Better office format compliancy, MS Office is usually bundled with the PDA.
12. ActiveSync rocks, it allows for direct internet connection and can mount the PDA to your desktop (PalmOS' drive mode is a hack, and only available to recent models)
13. Programming APIs similar to Win32, porting is easy, development too.
14. Basic and .NET available if C/C++ is not desired.
15. Able to install/run apps from flash addon cards and built-in storage.
16. Better localization than PalmOS (e.g. support for Greek, and support by MS' office there)
17. More PocketPC devices include a microphone for voice notes.
18. Supports resolutions up to VGA and there are already at least 5 devices shipped with it.
1. Usually more expensive than basic PalmOS devices, however prices go down
2. You need to find .cab installation files if you want to use it with a Mac or Linux. No ActiveSync for other OSes.
3. Cab files by default install in the memory, which is not desireble most of the time (freeware cabinst helps the situation a bit)
4. Drivers are not always compatible between major versions of the OS.
5. Internal file manager and image viewer are crap (Total Commander and XnView save the day).
6. Some optimizations to the UI could be done to save an extra 10-15 pixels vertically (without making it look squashing).
8. Not as efficient as PalmOS in battery life.
9. No easy way to close applications without navigating to "memory" utility (freeware vBar to the rescue).
10. No way to view the memory & battery status on any given screen (again, vBar).
11. Not possible to use more than one keyboard layout (commercial Resco Keyboard to the rescue).
12. Not compatible with Smartphone apps or older Pocket/WinCE devices.
13. Requires 7.5 MBs of RAM to start up with, PalmOS 5 can run on 2 MBs (admitedly, that's nothing in front of the 16+ MBs Linux requires with Qtopia).
And now, PalmOS' turn:
1. Designed from the ground up to be used with one hand.
2. More apps than PPC (~30,000 over ~20,000)
3. Better Mac & Linux compatibility and support.
4. Battery, bluetooth and other information easily viewable through the status bar.
5. More versalite when it comes to network connections
6. Smaller, lighter devices than PPCs.
7. Compatible with very old PalmOS apps, as far as back to 1998.
8. Much faster than PocketPC, it runs well on slower hardware.
9. Doesn't need much memory.
10. When Palm uses the standard resolutions your input is outside the window area, so you can enter data easier, without taking over the active window.
11. Palm devices are usually more stylish than PocketPCs.
12. Great battery life.
13. Real Player support on some models.
14. 4 GB of storage for the Lifedrive model.
1. OS crashes too easily, too often, when apps are crashing.
2. Most apps run at 160x160, even if the screen is capable of 320x320 or more (they double-pixel).
3. Palm's sync software sucks, doesn't share internet and can't mount the PDA automatically (requires "drive mode"). And it's unessarily complex and confusing.
4. If you have more than 1 Palm, especially a mix between Clies and Palm devices, it can be a nightmare because of the drivers needed for each device (PocketPCs use the same driver, regardless the manufacturer).
5. PalmOS doesn't let you install applications on built-in storage or flash cards, at least not without third party, nasty, hacks. Only data can be installed on flash cards.
6. The Clie & Palm modifications to the OS has left many third party apps not working with all devices.
7. No OpenGL or other accelerated 3D support built-in in the OS (Zodiac's is a home-brewed solution).
8. No compact flash to be found on most Palm devices. This means, considerably less accessory support (e.g. cameras, radios, ethernet, modem, wifi, gps etc).
9. Hey PalmOS, the mid-90s called, they want their UI and fonts back.
10. Doesn't use memory as efficiently as PPC does.
11. No VoIP support from third parties. Usually Skype or Stanaphone require 300 Mhz and a microphone and only few PalmOS devices feature these.
12. Driver API is problematic. Even PalmOne's WiFi card doesn't support all of their own PalmOS 5 devices.
13. Its C API is archaic.
If you are after gaming, multimedia, good WiFi+Bluetooth support, a lot of accessories and versatility, go with Pocket PC.
If you are after small and stylish devices with good battery life, simple interface and simple PIM apps, go with PalmOS.
There is room for both, however most modern or tech-oriented new PDA users are more likely to opt for PocketPC instead. In fact, PocketPC's market share *growth* is bigger than Palm's the last few years, but Palm is still ahead in overall market share. This is changing rapidly though, especially with the many PocketPC phones that are scheduled to be shipped later this year.
Related reading: Pocket PC freeware software suggestions.