Motorola Semi-Rugged Mobile Computer Targets Businesses

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Motorola has released the latest of its enterprise-class mobile computers, adding a more powerful processor and an updated Windows operating system.

The new MC55 Enterprise Digital Assistant is intended as a midrange, semi-rugged mobile device, aimed at hard daily use in markets such as healthcare, field service, warehousing, government and public safety. Two models support VoIP, improved Wi-Fi, and integrated Bluetooth to enable IP-based voice and data and work with an array of peripherals.

Semi-rugged handhelds and notebooks are aimed at business users who are on the move inside the enterprise, such as in warehouses, or outside in field service jobs. The products, like the MC55 and GD-Itronics' recently announced semi-rugged Windows notebook, are designed to stand up to hard use and hard conditions that are not part of the typical office.

Like its predecessors, the MC55 combines a cell phone, two-way radio, barcode scanner, digital camera and mobile Windows-based computer in one handheld. The 5590 model has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; the 5574 model adds to that quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE cellular and integrated GPS.

Priced between US$1,625 and $1,8295, the MC55 is somewhat more expensive than the aging MC50 and somewhat less expensive than the PPT8800 series handhelds, both of which the new product replaces. Both were originally developed by Symbol Technologies, which was acquired by Motorola. About 500,000 of the older products have been sold, according to the company. The top-of-the-line, fully-rugged, Windows-based MC7090 will still be available, priced between $1,195 and $2,195.

The MC55 offers the same display as the models it replaces -- a big 3.5-inch QVGA (320x240 pixels) resistive touch screen. It can be ordered with a cellphone-like keypad or a full QWERTY keyboard. With dimensions of 5.78 x 3.03 x 1.06 inches (slightly longer and thicker for the cellular model), it's the smallest Motorola handheld with this size screen and keyboard. Just for comparison, the Apple iPhone is 4.5 x 2.4 x 0.48 inches.

New to the MC55 is the Marvell 520-MHz PXA 270 Bulverde processor, which offers a faster clockspeed than earlier models and is a chip widely used in popular smartphones such as Palm Treo and Motorola Q. The OS has been updated to Windows Mobile 6.1, the current release. Microsoft just announced the 6.5 version, which is expected to show up in consumer-class smartphones starting in mid-2009.

There also are a bunch of new features, all of which continue the product's focus on mobile enterprise requirements begun when the MC70 was introduced 3 years ago:

2-megapixel camera with autofocus and user-controllable flash

A lot more memory: 128Mbytes SDRAM and 256Mbytes Flash

MicroSD slot instead of the larger SDIO slot

Latest versions of Motorola's 1-D laser and 2-D imager scanners (optional)

802.11abg adapter, instead of 11b

Integrated Bluetooth 2.0 Enhanced Data Rate, instead of an optional card via SDIO

Improved durability, surviving up to at least two 4-foot drops per side onto concrete

Integrated GPS, enabling support for a range of location-based applications and services

Full MC55 details are available online.

Also integrated is Motorola's Total Enterprise Access and Mobility (TEAM) Express client software, which gives the MC55 push-to-talk capability with other Motorola devices such as the CA50 VoIP-enabled wireless barcode scanner, TEAM VoIP WLAN-based smartphones, and even the company's broad array of two-way radios. (More details of the TEAM voice-over-WLAN capabilities are available at the Motorola Web site.)

Push-to-talk (PTT) offers some interesting possibilities for enterprise users, according to wireless analyst and NW blogger Craig Mathias. "PTT is going to become, I believe, a standard feature on essentially all handsets of all forms over time," he wrote last fall when Motorola unveiled TEAM Express. "It's convenient, it works well on IP-based networks... and it's a natural extension to social networking and enterprise Web 2.0 capabilities."

Both the WLAN and WLAN/cellular MC55 models are available now.

This story, "Motorola Semi-Rugged Mobile Computer Targets Businesses" was originally published by Network World.

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