Mobile PCs are a great tool for fieldwork and visiting clients, but outside the safe environment of the office, home or car they tend to suffer the occasional accident, like being dropped from waist height onto solid concrete, or keyboard-side-down into a cowpat. They don’t recover well from such mishaps.The tablet PC design does away with the keys and the leaky gaps between them, but US company Xplore Technologies has tackled the drop-risk as well by putting the tablet into a “rugged” enclosure, suitable for an army on manoeuvres or a farming consultant out – literally - in the field.
Wellington’s Trinity Technologies, local agent for the Xplore machines, has sold a batch to Carter Holt Harvey for the use of forestry workers, and has approached New Zealand’s biggest company, Fonterra, for the tough PCs to be given to the company's farm advisers.
It’s understood to be pitching not only the ruggedness of the machine, but its basic no-nonsense appearance – more likely to evoke fellow-feeling between farmer and adviser than if the “townie” shows up carrying a smart ultrathin notebook with a brushed magnesium case.
The Xplore Windows-Intel-based tablet’s casing its made from magnesium alloy, actually, for toughness, but painted an earthy khaki. The prime market, after all, was the armed forces. Other colours are in the works, says Trinity chief Chris O’Shea.
The PC is equipped with handwriting recognition software, and, like most tablets large and small, is typically programmed to be operable with a stylus simply pointing at boxes on its touch screen. But for users wedded to their QWERTY, a keyboard can be displayed on screen for text entry.
A mounting bracket can be supplied to fix the device securely to a vehicle. They have also been mounted on wheelchairs for disabled users, O'Shea says
As a smaller companion for the tablet, Trinity has sourced a rugged PDA, made by UK company Raytheon.