Redesigned line of portable PCs sports instant-on connectivity

Redesigned line of portable PCs sports instant-on connectivity



Vadem's C-1050 subnotebook has a flip-over display that can rotate the desktop 90 degrees for form-filling.


WinCE devices, with screen options and NIC support, take another stab at serving enterprise users

By Mark A. Kellner

Special to GCN

LOS ANGELES'The struggling Microsoft Windows CE portable platform will come out next week in a model with enterprise connectivity features and a touch-sensitive screen that can tilt to portrait orientation.

Built on the Clio design from Vadem Inc. of San Jose, Calif., the 3.2-pound Vadem C-1050 will incorporate a 56-Kbps modem. The subnotebook's rotation program for the 9.4-inch screen will ease form filling and accommodate southpaws. Priced around $1,000, the C-1050 will have the same 640- by 480-pixel, 256-color display as the original Clio introduced almost a year ago.

By year's end, Vadem will roll out the C-1100 with 90-, 180- and 270-degree screen orientations at 800-by-600 resolution and a price lower than $1,500'the bottom end for standard notebook PCs running Windows 98.

The new models retain the Clio tripod design that flips the display for presentations or note-taking. The Clio is significantly lighter at 3 pounds than most notebook computers and has a touted battery life of roughly 10 hours.

Bundled software drivers will support a range of wireless network interface cards and a new version of Vadem's ParaGraph handwriting recognition system. The single Type II PC Card slot will make it possible to network the platforms with a wired NIC, as well as connect wirelessly.

Vadem products are not available through General Services Administration schedule contracts, but government IMPAC credit card holders can buy through the company's Web site, at www.vadem.com.

The WinCE device market, which is about to reach its third birthday, originally focused on consumer electronics such as set-top boxes for Web television.

The first devices to use the operating system were handheld PC companions, although Palm units from 3Com Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., now control 78 percent of the handheld market, according to analysts.

Military command and control, however, requires large screens and color mapping not found in handheld devices, said Maj. James Cummiskey, a Marine Corps technical adviser and a WinCE advocate.

'People dismiss CE as a toy operating system,' Cummiskey said. 'They don't really understand the instant-on capability and low price point. I'd rather throw away a $500 computer than a $1,000 computer.'

Fit to order

Cummiskey said the Vadem line would fit his information technology deployment program.

'We need to access data anywhere from walking along a muddy trail to riding around in a tank,' he said. 'Any machine that would offer flexibility in presenting data to the user would be of interest.'

WinCE analyst Diana Hwang at International Data Corp. of Framingham, Mass., said Vadem 'may run into challenges getting enterprise recognition because they're not known for corporate products right now.'

Although the Clio has won kudos for innovative design and long battery life, handhelds and PC companions are under pressure from low-end notebook computers, said analyst Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies of Campbell, Calif.

Microsoft Corp., Bajarin said, 'does not want to cannibalize laptop sales, so in that context, they have been very slow to respond to the CE crowd that wants lightweight, instant-on capabilities and [machines that] can do the majority of things they need on the road.'

David Hayden, a senior industry analyst with Mobile Insights of Mountain View, Calif., said the next year will be crucial as Microsoft revs the operating system for its third release.

About the same time, users might see the first real-time recompiler that would run CE applications in a window of a new Internet Explorer browser.

'They will do a pretty good job of connecting to Microsoft Office applications,' Hayden said. 'As corporate America has pretty much standardized on Exchange and Outlook, CE becomes a potentially viable platform.'

Cummiskey said he thinks CE will benefit from Microsoft's promised Common Executable Format, which would let programmers create a piece of software once to run on various processors supporting WinCE. If CEF can run programs on a desktop PC with a Web browser, the Corps can get more out of its programming efforts, he said.

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