June 19, 2009

Eulogy for AvantGo

We've written about PDAs before. You remember those schedule thingies that we all had back in the 90's? They had those cool monochromatic screens, and the calendar, and the list of all your friends addresses? You remember... before our phones usurped all those abilities and took over as the chosen one? But, we digress. There have been many nails put into the PDA's coffin, but another one, perhaps the final one, came recently. One of the most used, and beloved, piece of PDA software is being (gasp) discontinued. Killed off. Banished, sorta like Yoda at the end of Episode 3 even though he totally almost kicked the emporor's wrinkled behind. The difference though, is that for this piece of software, it's final. No coming back. The software is AvantGo, and if you ever had a PDA you no doubt had this on it at one time or another, or at least knew about it. It was that good. Its reason for living was to enable you to semi-automatically copy information from the 'net to your PDA and take it with you. Every day people would wake up, download scads of the latest information (from online newspapers mainly, but who knows what all else they grabbed) and then read it on their PDA on the way to work. It was simple, effective, and just plain good. It served a use that was extremely important -- it enabled people to take their favorite sites with them, and read that information where they chose, at a time they chose, and not have to be bound to their PC in order to do so. It was liberating.

But in the last few years, something happened. The phones started doing all this, and they were doing it in real-time. From the lowliest Virgin Mobile T9 puke-white clamshell to the almighty iPhone, it seems that net access with a cell phone is all too easy these days. Sure, there's a price to be paid, but most people seem to ante up at one time or another in any number of various ways. There's the $5 monthly plan from Verizon on their lowest phones, there's the $30 smartphone/Blackberry bundles that just about every carrier has these days ("oh, we didn't tell you? That's on top of your monthly voice plan") and then there's the cream of the crop, the iPhone plan, which near as we can tell involves some kind of revolving credit line and a Swiss account. Different methods, different price points and devices. There's even free services from Google which use text messaging to deliver results from the net. For free, no less. Have they no shame?

In the end, it seems that AvantGo's demise may well be the last vestige of the old PDA age, and herald the bellwether of the true smartphone age, as more and more people rely on their phones for data services and connecting to the internet. It's been forecast for years, but now it's finally coming true.

So farewell AvantGo. We knew you well, we used the hell out you, and we loved you. You did us proud.

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