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Magic Mirror

Hocus pocus, we've got focus, Part II

By Dan Hanttula
October 1998, issue 24

All right, before anyone starts saying that I am repeating myself, I had good reason to carry over the title from my last column. General Magic has accomplished a number of noteworthy successes since our last issue. In a meeting just before we closed this issue, General Magic representatives disclosed a number of projects that show strong successes and a very bright future for Magic Cap and the company.

Meter maids with Magic
While GM could be guilty of arming the enemy, meter maids around the country now have a new partner in fighting crime. Parking meter enforcement officers are now armed with the DataRover 840 running a proprietary parking ticket application. Until now, Sans Management, used to supply officers with GRID slate systems to run the parking enforcement application and placed proprietary servers at the police station to download the data. General Magic related that Sans was attempting to develop their own PDA when they heard about the DataRover. And reportedly, their reaction upon receiving a demo was "this was the device we thought of two years ago!" The DataRover works with the company’s existing servers and writes the ticket by sending it to an off-the-shelf infrared printer worn on the officer’s belt. Currently being used in Norfolk, Virginia and piloted in Oakland, California, the company reports that officers are up and running in just hours and their productivity has doubled since using the DataRover. That is great news for General Magic and bad news for anyone who likes to double park. (NOTE: As the mischievous spirit of General Magic lives on, the cars in GM’s parking lot were littered with faux tickets from the DataRover as soon as the application was completed.)

Medical connection
While not everyone may appreciate the DataRover’s advances in the law enforcement community, Magic Cap is also making big advancements in the medical field. The Magic Cap veterans from FITNE ( are still ardent supporters of Magic Cap and have ported their Nightingale Tracker application to the DataRover with great success. Currently in use at twenty schools including San Jose State University, the medical training application allows students to pick up, complete, and return their assignments electronically. The application I was shown proved that FITNE’s seasoned professionals really know how to develop an application that looks and feels like Magic Cap. Bundles include a UNIX server to manage communications and DataRover devices for students and the teacher.

Another medical company, Net Strategy, is rumored to have built their entire handheld business around the DataRover. Designing and developing a prescription tracking application on their own, Net Strategy has created a sales force automation application for pharmaceutical company sales people in the United States and Canada. The application informs the sales person of what drugs their competitors give to each doctor and tracks dispensary, history, and personal information about each company the sales rep interacts with.

Finally, PDA Solutions, developer of home healthcare software applications, has created ChartRover, a program to document the house calls that nurses and physical trainers make to patients that are unable to obtain in-hospital care. The application was impressively adapted to Magic Cap and reportedly solves one of the biggest problems of home healthcare; lost fees due to undocumented visits. General Magic reports that ChartRover users are immediately productive with the application because of Magic Cap’s graphic environment and the fact that it has been designed by experts in the home healthcare industry.

All this serves to expose General Magic’s new plan. Although GM’s use of third parties to promote Magic Cap technology isn’t new, they have changed the format slightly to adapt to vertical markets. General Magic is working with experts in each industry to develop products that are perfectly designed around real problems and don’t "force-fit" a solution. Future target markets include durable medical equipment and the transportation industry. But General Magic is quick to add that they "want to stay focused, but broaden [our target markets] at the same time."

I.O.U., Newton R.I.P.
General Magic has reportedly gained ground because of the death of the Newton. PDA Solutions and Net Strategy were previously Newton development houses that were examining their options during the final days of Apple’s groundbreaking PDA. Even after analyzing some of the more commonplace handheld operating systems like Windows CE, these development houses recognized GM’s DataRover as the ideal model for advanced server-client communications beyond the "PC Companion" space.

Teeming with pride
The test marketing and pilot programs have produced a number of positive results. In addition to gaining valuable feedback, General Magic has also gained a new group of Magic Cap devotees that want the devices even after the test program is over. Employees confided in me that the Magic Cap group is "energized by the successes" the DataRover is seeing and proud that the platform is finally solving what they call "real world problems." Jeffrey Ellis, VP of Business Development confessed "There’s a lot more to come," as he added with an almost evil grin, "come back in two weeks!"

Dan Hanttula the platform editor for Windows CE and Magic Cap operating systems and the president of HomeRun Advertising. He can be reached via e-mail at

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