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Magic Mirror

Bye Datarover, welcome Icras!

By Dan Hanttula
April 2000, issue 33

Just when you're finally used to saying "DataRover Mobile Systems Incorporated" instead of "General Magic," the company changes the name yet again. 59 days into the new century, the company producing Magic Cap devices announced a rebranding campaign based on a new vision of their future.

Icras, Inc. (pronounced: Eye-kraz) is the company's new name, which they say is derived from the Latin root for "tomorrow" and "represents the company's rapid expansion to provide leading edge end-to-end wireless data solutions for commercial customers." And the changes are more than just skin deep.

Changing positioning, too
With their new brand, appears a new attitude as well. Their new tagline "Tomorrow. Come see what it looks like." is the kind of pretentious grandeur I must say I admire. And, where press releases once announced that big name venders supported Magic Cap, the first Icras press release announces that they selected a Novatel solution for their platform. And the most flattering thing is that Novatel didn't reword the announcement on their web site, making it look as if Novatel was delighted to have been selected by Icras.

Novatel's popular Merlin PCMCIA card modem will be shipped with the Icras system to provide an out-of-the-box wireless solution. Novatel's hardware matches GoAmerica Communications' corporate network communications system and Savoir Technology's VAR (Value Added Reseller) network to provide a complete end-to-end wireless deployment system. In my talks with Steve Schramm, CEO and President of Icras, it became clear that the company is making even more strides to further expand the wireless options for their device.

The goal of the company has changed from mobile data collection to wireless data access-a much broader target for the small company, and a far more lucrative market for them to target as some might say they are skimming off the Windows CE/Palm Pilot marketplace motto of "information regardless of location."

The company's corporate ID has also returned to a more lighthearted and flashy style, with deep greens and an orange accent color that makes their web site a more unique and fun environment despite its sparse buildout shortly after the announcement. Since the DataRover site had not been updated for well over a quarter, I have to wonder what the marketing department has been doing.

MAPs to success
As another piece of their positioning pie, Icras has also enlisted Mobile Application Providers (or MAPs) to evangelize their platform. These middleware developers are essentially third party solution providers that program the device with their application (using Icras' Remote Application Kit) and sell it to a vertical market customer base. If this sounds familiar, you're right. The company has been working to line up a set of Mobile Application Providers since before they spun themselves off from General Magic. But, like the chicken and the egg, Icras needed a broad back-end wireless network before the applications could be developed and the wireless providers probably wanted to see if the company could muster a set of developers.

Despite whichever may have come first, it is moving very quickly now that the pieces are in place. In March, just after the company changed monikers, a batch of MAPs started work on the newly reborn Icras system. As it was once (and perhaps more suitably) called the Remote Application Kit, the developer's environment delivered results in just a few weeks; in the middle of March, one of their MAPs was already deploying a vertical market solution on actual devices and was looking to step up production for two more deployments by the end of the month. At press time (late March), Icras reported that at least two more MAPs were completing development and would have solutions in the very near future.

Catch phrase fever
With a catchy new name, a readjusted focus, and a president that is coining terms like "MAPs," I can't help but think that something is buzzing around the Icras group. In fact, the whole thing feels like the company is looking to go public, as I speculated a few issues back (See "Is there an IPO in DataRover's future?", October 1999) or is looking to make enough noise to become acquired by one of the larger players in the market? After all, why change a name from DataRover to Icras, when you've got players like Telxon and Symbol as your competition?

Magicians still performing
On a lighter note, shortly after the name change, Dan Witmer and Steve Schramm made an appearance at the Mobile Insights 2000 conference held at Desert Palms, California, to demonstrate a mobile airplane boarding pass ticket application running on an Icras device. The demo, introduced by none other than our editor-in-chief Conrad H. Blickenstorfer, received the second highest rating by approximately 400 conference attendees and earned the company a "Demo God" award. It's good to see that they still have the show skills they perfected many years ago in the grand days of General Magic.

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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