Business version of Apple’s EMate on tap

Business users are eagerly awaiting a new version of the Apple EMate - one without the funky, shiny dark-green case designed for children. For many users, the EMate is perfect for writing short documents and surfing the World Wide Web from the road. A cross between a handheld and a laptop with the heft of a lunchbox, the EMate uses the Newton 2.1 operating system and has a PC card modem. The 4-pound machine has a 25-MHz ARM 710A processor, 3Mb of RAM and a backlit screen.

Business users are eagerly awaiting a new version of the Apple EMate — one without the funky, shiny dark-green case designed for children.

For many users, the EMate is perfect for writing short documents and surfing the World Wide Web from the road. A cross between a handheld and a laptop with the heft of a lunchbox, the EMate uses the Newton 2.1 operating system and has a PC card modem. The 4-pound machine has a 25-MHz ARM 710A processor, 3Mb of RAM and a backlit screen.

In online discussion groups, the lingering question is, when will Apple release a business version of its education-friendly handheld — a machine you won’t feel silly about pulling out at a business meeting.

Apple isn’t talking, but analysts say the EMate 1000 is due within several months and that Apple acting CEO Steve Jobs may be considering the EMate part of the firm’s strategy to enter the network computer market. Network computers are low-cost, stripped-down PCs for accessing the Internet and corporate networks.

Apple isn’t discussing plans for EMate or its other personal digital assistants (PDA).

Graham Barron, a Web developer at Red #40, a Web design company in New York, says an Emate business model should be smaller, sport a color monitor and have a sleeker case. He said he is interested in an EMate if it is integrated with Apple’s network computer strategy.

“The EMate fits nicely as an adjunct to a desktop machine,” he says.

Carlos Pero, a project coordinator in digital publishing at the Chicago Tribune, said he wants to use an upgraded EMate to take notes during meetings.

“I just need something that allows me to type and easily download to my computer when I get back to my desk,” he said. With the upgraded EMate, Pero says, he wants real-time access to his network so he can troubleshoot when necessary. He also wants a way to read Microsoft Word files without having to convert documents.

The Largo, Florida, Police Department is using the EMate in police cruisers and expects to get an upgraded business model of the system within several months. The department uses modem cards in the EMate’s one PC card slot to let officers connect to a wireless Cellular Digital Packet Data network.

Sergeant Brian McKeon said the EMate is far more cost-effective than laptops. It is also more durable than laptops, which are prone to damage and are more heat-sensitive when locked in cars all day.

But other users don’t see much use for the EMate. Tod Caflisch, director of information systems at the San Antonio Spurs Basketball Club Ltd. in Texas, says, “There’s not a lot of status in sitting on an airplane playing with a PDA when you can pull out a laptop.”

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