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Magic Mirror

New Magic

By Dan Hanttula
December 1999, issue 31

Earlier this year those talented folks at DataRover spent much of their time securing new funding, and during that time not much was heard from the company. We're glad that the "dark period," as DataRover president and CEO Steve Schramm called it in a recent interview, is over since no announcements meant there was nothing new for us to report in this column. But DataRover is back with some great news, and also with another new formula for restoring the magic in Magic Cap.

DataRover II?
While details were slim at press time, there is definitely talk about a new Data Rover form factor being developed by a reselling partner. Apparently designed for insurance applications and other vertical markets that rely on remote image and data capture, the new DataRover features a totally integrated color digital camera with flash to enable nighttime and low-light photography. The software that accompanies the new device is capable of sending images and data back to a Java server which then routes the information to a networked personal computer somewhere in a corporate office. Office staff reviews the file and the images and can respond with an approval or denial of, for example, an insurance claim almost on the spot.

DataRover reportedly has been working on this project since spring of this year and is very excited over what appears to be a significant design win. Watch this column for more news and, of course, a complete review once a preproduction or shipping unit becomes available to us.

Along with the new device, DataRover Mobile Systems has also added some new members to their family-like business. At the top of the marquee is Aaron Dobrinsky, a new member on DataRover's board who co-founded and is President and CEO of Go America. Schramm is betting that Dobrinsky's presence will help to deliver on DataRover's mobile communication feature set, which up until now has been limited to wireless networking. Go America will also get an equal boost, since they currently do not have a presence in the corporate and vertical marketplace. The advantage of Go America over other wireless ISPs is that they allow single points of entry into corporate networks with firewalls, as well as offering a complete solution to corporations with multiple platforms attempting to gain access.

Schramm wavered before admitting that DataRover had also nabbed James Summa, a vice president of sales from Telxon, one of their major competitors in the vertical marketplace. This hire is very important as DataRover seeks to establish a dedicated sales team-not an easy task for a small company trying to do so much. DataRover Mobile Systems now totals around 30 employees, with talks about increasing the count quickly now that their first round of financing has been secured.

A new magic formula?
While DataRover still maintains a focus on developing real solutions for "real people with real companies," there's a new underlying current to the message. CEO Schramm hinted at a little "horizontal action" for the DataRover group as well. And when I asked him to elaborate there was talk of big names licensing the Magic Cap operating system and perhaps a return to the consumer market. With the goal being to "do more cool things and get people more excited about licensing," DataRover hopes to get some OS licensing in the very near future. This consumer market news coincides with reader reports of DataRovers being available for purchase to individuals. Communicate Incorporated of Fort Collins, Colorado (970-221-1305), for example, is selling the DataRover 840 for under $900.

As for licensing, Schramm sees a distinct advantage in that approach for companies that want to enter the handheld computer market without all of the R&D normally associated with creating a product from scratch. And General Magic/DataRover certainly has a track record of bringing partners to the handheld application space in less than a year. It's an uphill battle as some potential licensees have been burned in the past, and the competition from the Microsoft Windows CE and the Palm OS platforms is fierce. But DataRover's Schramm reminded that "people have to have an alternative... [and] in our world, we provide an entertaining alternative".

With two powerful, well established competitors in the marketplace, DataRover essentially finds itself in a similar position as parent General Magic was several years ago when it took on a corporate steamroller (Apple Computer), only now it's two steamrollers and DataRover is operating with less resources than the old General Magic was. But the game is different. This time, rather than spending a lot of time and money evangelizing their operating environment, DataRover Mobile Systems is quietly building up customer demand by explaining what they have to offer one-on-one, by going to trade shows and talking to customers, and by having a tried-and-true solution where their larger competitors still experiment. This low-key grass roots approach may well appeal to some potential licensees. And with an attractive new product on the horizon, who knows what will happen.

Finally, there's more good news: at Wireless IT, DataRover and GoAmerica Communications Corp. announced that Go-America will provide wireless Internet access and host content on the DataRover 840. Yet another piece is falling into place.

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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