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Senior Editor

COMDEX: The Symbol PPT 8800 hits the show floor

Nov 19, 20023 mins
MobileNetwork SecuritySmall and Medium Business

Symbol Technologies has introduced the Pocket PC equivalent of the incredible Ginsu knife as seen on TV.

They demonstrate the Symbol PPT 8800 by dropping it on the floor.

In the Ginsu TV commercials a chef uses the knife to slice tomatoes, beef, bread, tin cans, and chop wood.

You can see the PPT 8800 bounce. You can see it keep running. You can see it still attached to the network with a built-in 802.11b wireless LAN card. Symbol says it’s built to withstand repeated 4-foot drops to a concrete floor.

Dell and Hewlett-Packard are flaunting gleaming, sleek, sensuous new Pocket PC handhelds, some priced at $200. Over at the Symbol booth, #3138, they’re showing off what looks like a piece of charcoal plastic with a couple of big yellow buttons on the side and a keypad at the base. The size is 1.3 x 3.1 x 5.7 inches. With battery, the PPT weighs 10.5 ounces. It looks like high-tech camping accessory, and it’s tough enough that you could probaby use it to pound tent pegs [click here for more details].

But it’s not cheap. Aimed at demanding applications in areas such as shopfloors, retail stores, police work, and hospitals, the PPT 8800 with built-in 802.11b or Bluetooth adapter has a suggested list price of $1,795. For a nonwireless version, used for dial-up batch operations, the price is $1,495.

The Symbol device is a distillation of the company’s experience with handhelds and wireless LANs, and extensive interviews with its customers. It uses the Intel Xscale PXA250 microprocessor, ranging from 300-400 MHz. The device runs Microsoft’s Embedded CE.Net, a stripped down version of Windows CE 4.1, which also turns the device into a .Net client, able to work with Web Services written in XML and SOAP.

“Our customers build applications for specific functions, not for personal information applications like calendaring,” says Douglas Lloyd, Symbol’s director of product marketing, and the guy who deliberately and repeatedly drops his company’s products on the Comdex floor. The PPT 8800 uses 32M bytes of RAM, and has another 32M bytes of ROM, instead of the 64M bytes typically found in Pocket PC handhelds. That’s because the compact embedded version of Windows CE takes up only about 11M bytes of memory, compared to nearly 32 for the Pocket PC version.

The smaller operating system also makes less demand on battery life, a critical issue for Symbol’s customers who want a device to last for a full 8-hour workshift. With the PPT 8800, Symbol has introduced a “hot battery swap”: if you get a “low-battery” alert onscreen, you flip the device over, pull out the exhausted battery, slip in a fully charged one, and you continue working with your application exactly where you left off. There’s no rebooting, no relogging.

The PPT 8800 also includes Symbol’s client code for its AirBeam device and software management application. With AirBeam, customers can keep track of each of sometimes hundreds of devices, know exactly what applications, and what versions of them, are on the devices, and add or upgrade software on all of them with a few mouse clicks.

Lloyd doesn’t flinch from the price. Nor, he says, do customers. “We tell them to look at the total costs involved in owning these kinds of devices,” he says. “What happens if someone drops it, which they will, and it breaks? There’s a cost for not being able to do the job.”

The PPT 8800 will ship in early 2003.

Senior Editor

I cover wireless networking and mobile computing, especially for the enterprise; topics include (and these are specific to wireless/mobile): security, network management, mobile device management, smartphones and tablets, mobile operating systems (iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry OS and BlackBerry 10), BYOD (bring your own device), Wi-Fi and wireless LANs (WLANs), mobile carrier services for enterprise/business customers, mobile applications including software development and HTML 5, mobile browsers, etc; primary beat companies are Apple, Microsoft for Windows Phone and tablet/mobile Windows 8, and RIM. Preferred contact mode: email.

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