Symbol launches ruggedised Windows devices

Promising that you can drop its newest model handheld from six feet without damage, use it in the rain, and have it tumble 2000 times from a height of 1 metre, Symbol Technologies on Monday unveiled two ruggedised Windows-based devices, the MC9000K and MC9000S.

Promising that you can drop its newest model handheld from six feet without damage, use it in the rain, and have it tumble 2000 times from a height of 1 metre, Symbol Technologies on Monday unveiled two ruggedised Windows-based devices, the MC9000K and MC9000S.

Both units include an Intel XScale 400MHz processor, VGA or mono display, 64MB of memory, a 1D laser scanner for reading UPC codes, and a combination of any three wireless modes: IEEE 802.11b (Wi-Fi), wide area (GSM or GPRS), and Bluetooth.

List price for a VGA model with WiFi is $US2895, wide area connectivity is an additional $600, and Bluetooth support an additional $150.

While four or five times the price of a similarly configured, non-ruggedised consumer handheld, the TCO is far less for a Symbol device than if companies bought off-the-shelf devices and replaced them as they broke, according to Steve Schmid, senior director of product marketing for embedded technology at Symbol.

"Our customers understand the value. Coca Cola is buying as many as 28,000 ruggedised devices for its route sales and delivery people," said Schmid.

The MC9000K/S comes with either Microsoft CE .Net 4.2 or Windows Mobile 2003.

Symbol is not offering the devices with the Palm operating system. However, one industry analyst said too much should not be read into the decision.

"Symbol is always in customer response mode. If there is one large customer or a set of clients that make a request for a particular product, Symbol will build it. They are not abandoning the Palm platform," said Gerry Purdy, principal at MobileTrax, a mobile and wireless consultancy. The tri-mode wireless configuration includes internal antenna's for WiFi, wide area and Bluetooth.

Symbol's AirBeam software is included for system management, seamless roaming between wide area and WiFi, and for connection to the corporate network using a VPN.

Both models are listed at $2,800 but do differ in form factor, weight, and battery life. The K model has a 15.8 watt-hour life, weighs 22 ounces to 25 ounces depending on configuration, and measures 9.2 inches by 3.6 inches by 1.7 inches thick.

The S model has a battery life of 11.1 watt-hour, weighs between 20 ounces and 23 ounces, and measures 7.6 inches by 3.6 inches by 1.7 inches thick.

Both the MC9000 K and S are shipping in volume now.

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