April 2010

Socket Mobile -- salvation in barcode scanners?
Socket Mobile's Q1 2010 financials (see PDF) show both bad news and good news. The bad news is that it's tough for a company that specialized on add-on cards (modems, WiFi, BT, ports) to survive when that functionality is now usually built into products. So that market is mostly going away. The good news is that Socket managed to eke out increased sales of its barcode scanners and its SoMo business-class handheld computers are a respectable business. Problem there, of course, is that Windows Mobile, which powers the SoMo, has been losing ground. Socket's new BT scanners, however, work with the iPad and similar products, and may become the basis for state-of-the-art 2D barcode scanning solutions. -- Posted Wednesday, April 28, 2010 by chb

HP buys Palm
Three weeks after Pen Computing conjectured, "Here's an idea, though: what about using Palm's WebOS as the basis for HP's upcoming iPad competitor? It'll never fly with Windows 7 on it, but with Palm's WebOS....?", HP announced it will acquire Palm for US$1.2 billion. Now this sounds like good news for Palm, but then again, HP is also the company that squandered away the iPAQ brand when it bought Compaq. It seems unlikely that even HP will be able to make much of a dent in the smartphone market with Palm phones, but, again, possibly using webOS for small iPad competitor tablets, that's a different story altogether. -- Posted Wednesday, April 28, 2010 by chb

Will Cisco buy Palm to build an enterprise tablet?
Steve Cheney of Silicon Alley Insider has posted an intriguing article suggesting that Cisco should buy struggling Palm in order to use Palm's WebOS as the basis for an enterprise tablet offering IP telephony, video, WebEx & mobile collaboration. The company has previously indicated interest in building such a device but, according to Cheney, "They don't have a web-centric, mobile optimized platform OS." He makes a convincing case for such an acquisition.
READ: Cisco Should Buy Palm To Make An iPad For The Enterprise

-- Posted Wednesday, April 28, 2010 by dtm

AT&T posts info on iPad 3G data plans
AT&T has posted a PDF fact sheet on their data plans for the iPad WiFi + 3G models hitting the stores on Friday April 30. Pricing has not changed but we were surprised by the auto-renew "feature" that forces you to remember to cancel or pay for another month. While full-time 3G data users will like this, travelers who only intend to activate their plan on an ad hoc basis may not. We were under the impression that the plan would be month-to-month with auto-cancel if not explicitly renewed by the user.
DOWNLOAD: AT&T iPad 3g Fact Sheet (PDF)

-- Posted Wednesday, April 28, 2010 by dtm

Original Newton Notes author Dave MacNeill reviews the iPad
Dave MacNeill, author of the original Newton Notes, is back among the writing after a three-year stint pursuing his interests in music. Dave got himself a 64GB iPad and wrote what may well be the ultimate initial iPad review. "There is one good thing about being a little late to the party: you will always be more sober than everyone else," says Dave as he contemplates Apple's latest contribution to changing the world as we know it. [Read Dave McNeill's full review of the Apple iPad WiFi 64GB] -- Posted Monday, April 26, 2010 by chb

Inteil unveils new rugged convertible Classmate PC
Building on their prior clamshell and convertible classmate PC designs, Intel unveiled their latest convertible Classmate PC reference design. Featuring the 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450 and a 10.1-inch LCD touch monitor with palm rejection, the latest version has more memory and storage, up to 8.5 hours battery life, a user interface optimized for eReading applications, water-resistant keyboard, touchpad, improved ruggedness with drop test from desk height, bump and scratch resistance, and an optional anti-microbial keyboard. For wireless, there are 3G, GPS and WiMAX options. According to Intel, more than 300 vendors are developing applications, peripherals and services optimized for Intel-powered classmate PCs as a part of the Intel Learning Series. See Classmate PC products from Equus Computer Systems, M&A Technology, MDG, and CTL.
-- Posted Monday, April 26, 2010 by chb

Microsoft releases free Touch Pack for Windows 7
Microsoft has made available for free download the Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows 7, a collection of six simple applications optimized for Windows 7 Touch. There are three games (Blackboard, Garden Pond, Rebound), as well as Surface Globe (maps), Surface Collage (playing with pictures) and Surface Lagoon (cool screen saver). See download page for Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows 7. -- Posted Thursday, April 22, 2010 by chb

Stating the obvious
"...if Microsoft and its partners hinder these new tablets with a full-blown OS and the standard world of ad-hoc Windows applications and utilities bought from non-homogenous sources, Apple and the iPad will win." (PC Mag columnist Lance Ulanoff in What Microsoft Can Learn from the Apple iPad) -- Posted Thursday, April 22, 2010 by chb

Socket 2D BT scanner to work with Apple iPad
Socket Mobile announced Apple iPad compatibility for the Socket Bluetooth Cordless Hand Scanner (CHS) 7X and its antimicrobial equivalent, the CHS 7XRx. Both can combine with the iPad into lightweight, portable, state-of-the-art 2D barcode scanning solutions that fit a diverse set of application requirements in a range of industries including healthcare, hospitality and retail. See the Socket scanners and a demonstration video with the iPad. -- Posted Thursday, April 22, 2010 by chb

Conference ConCepts announced Netbook Summit
Conference ConCepts announced Netbook Summit, a new Silicon Valley conference and exhibit dedicated to the ongoing revolution in low-cost mobile computing, which will take place May 24-25 at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport. The event will also cover emerging categories like tablets and how they will impact both the market and end users. The Consumer Electronics Association recently reported that 12% of US households own netbooks and 42% plan to buy them, which would indicate over 50 million units in the US alone. Among the speakers is Ben Thacker, formerly of Itronix. Our take: the challenge will be to provide decent performance (including HD playback!) while retaining form factor, weight, battery life and price, and without cannibalizing standard notebooks. -- Posted Thursday, April 22, 2010 by chb

Hypercom introduces secure payment solution for iPhone
Hypercom unveiled a SmartPayments Mobile payment solutions for merchants with Apple iPhones who need simple, flexible and secure card-present processing capabilities. SThe system features a durable slider case with an encrypted, PCI, PA-DSS certified high security card reader that fully protects the iPhone from scratches and other damage and lets merchants avoid the high cost of "card not present" transaction fees in application-only solutions. [See Smartpayments Mobile for iPhone] -- Posted Tuesday, April 20, 2010 by chb

Sharp introduces Japanese market Netwalker PC-T1 tablet
Those who follow the Japanese domestic electronics market know that it is full of fascinating products and gadgets that we never get to see stateside. With its Freescale processor and customized Ubuntu Linux platform, the 5.9 x 3.54 x 0.8 inch Sharp Netwalker PC-T1 again represents an alternate approach to technology. The little Netwalker has a 5-inch touch display, only the older 802.11b/g WiFi standard, and neither a camera nor WWAN capabilities. [See description and specs of the Sharp Netwalker PC-T1] -- Posted Tuesday, April 20, 2010 by chb

What if....
What if we came into the possession of a piece of technology that we were quite obviously not supposed to have? Would we take advantage of the situation and report on it? No, we would not. This is not what journalists are supposed to do. It breaks an unwritten code of ethics and a covenant of trust we have with the industry. -- Posted Tuesday, April 20, 2010 by chb

Synaptics Gesture Suite now on Linux
Synaptics announced the extension of its Synaptics Gesture Suite to Linux. This release extends the Synaptics Gesture Suite, which includes multi-finger gestures, OEMs that offer Linux-based solutions. Supported Linux distros include Fedora, Millos Linpus, Red Flag, SuSE, Ubuntu, and Xandros. Supported gestures include two-finger scrolling, PinchZoom, TwistRotate, PivotRotate, three-finger flick and press, Momentum, and ChiralScrolling. Bundled with Synaptics' enhanced driver interface, SGS-L is provided free of charge to Synaptics OEM/ODM partners when ordered with Synaptics TouchPad and ClickPad products. [See Synaptics Gesture Suite Linux for TouchPads] -- Posted Monday, April 19, 2010 by chb

Pocket PC turns 10 - coulda/shoulda been a contender
It was ten years ago today that Microsoft introduced the Pocket PC to great fanfare at New York's Grand Central Station. The announcement rang in the first serious implementations of Windows CE-based PDAs, with much stricter hardware requirements than the prior multi-architecture "Palm-Size PC," mostly thanks to the landmark Compaq iPAQ, courtesy of, yes, HTC. See Pen Computing's April 19, 2000 reporting on the new Pocket PC] -- Posted Monday, April 19, 2010 by chb

iPad 3G to ship by May 7th
Those who passed on the WiFi-only iPad have to wait a little longer. Originally slated to be available by the end of April, the shipping date listed in the Apple online store is now May 7th. -- Posted Monday, April 19, 2010 by chb

Things look dire for Palm
It's pretty much clear that Palm is now desperately looking for a buyer. But the financial community seems to have doubts that they'll find one. Palm's primary problem is that they're just too small. The WebOS may be find and good, but it's clearly falling between the cracks against the iPhone and Android. Sprint isn't doing Palm any favors either (they never even replied to our requests for review units of the Pre and Pixi). We'd still love to see a webpad with the WebOS on it, but that may never come to pass. -- Posted Monday, April 19, 2010 by chb

Otterbox honored for their business ethics
At a time where trust has become a precious and often abused commodity, it's good to hear that OtterBox, the folks who make those great protective cases for handheld technology, was honored by the Northern Colorado and Greater Wyoming Better Business Bureau with the Torch Award for Business Ethics that recognizes businesses for their outstanding commitment to practices that benefit their customers, suppliers, shareholders, employees and the surrounding community. Way to go, Otterbox!! -- Posted Saturday, April 17, 2010 by chb

TI adds new DaVinci ARM-based HD video processor
With more and more demand for devices incorporating full HD 1080p H.264 video playback and decoding capabilities, Texas Instruments added to its range of DM36x DaVinci portable encoding solutions with the new TMS320DM368 video processor. The DM368 is well suited for many video-based applications, including HD video cameras, real-timeDVRs, HD video communications systems, digital signage and presumably adding HD video to mobile devices. [see DM368 resource page] -- Posted Friday, April 16, 2010 by chb

5 million Electronic Paper Displays sold in 2009, mostly Kindles
According to DisplaySearch, the market for EDPs (electronic paper displays) exploded in 2009, with about 5 million units sold, compared to not even a quarter that in 2008. The increase was primarily due to the Amazon Kindle, which Display Search says had a 66% market share in 2009, i.e. almost 3.5 million Kindles sold last year, almost all of them the 6-inch version. With the advent of the Apple iPad, the new battle front will be the 9.7-inch devices. -- Posted Tuesday, April 13, 2010 by chb

RipCode enables clientless Flash video on the iPad
RipCode, Inc. announced the TransAct Transcoder V6 that can transparently intercept Adobe Flash-based file or live video requests and convert them to a container, video codec, and audio codec accepted by the iPad without the need for any pre-transcoding or device-based client. Since HTML5 is not yet widely adopted. RipCode's Transactional Transcoding platform enables an alternate and immediate solution to this issue, opening up video content to users without requiring the content hoster to move to HTML5 or pre-transcode entire video libraries from Flash to an iPad-accepted container format. [See full release] -- Posted Tuesday, April 13, 2010 by chb

Palm buyout rumors getting stronger
With Apple's announcement of multitasking in the next version of the iPhone/iPad OS, already-struggling Palm lost perhaps its last compelling market advantage. As a result, there are acquisition rumors galore, with cnet offering an interesting look at who might be interested in buying Palm (see cnet's Who would benefit most by buying Palm?). Frankly, it's not entirely clear who might benefit from Palm's valiant efforts that simply lack market traction. Here's an idea, though: what about using Palm's WebOS as the basis for HP's upcoming iPad competitor? It'll never fly with Windows 7 on it, but with Palm's WebOS....? -- Posted Friday, April 9, 2010 by chb

Gartner: young users drive touch screen demand
Commenting on the checkered record of pen and touch devices over the past two decades, market research firm Gartner says the adoption of touch-enabled devices will likely be slow in business and enterprise. However, young users, who rarely deal with legacy issues, will drive the demand for touch-enabled devices, with half of all PCs purchased in 2015 for those under 15 expected to be touch devices. Likewise, over half, and possibly as many as 75%, of US school districts will be specifying touch and/or pen input within the next five years. [See Gartner release on touchscreens] -- Posted Friday, April 9, 2010 by chb

iPhone OS 4.0 announced
At an Apple iPhone event, Steve Jobs said Apple has sold 450,000 iPads, a million iPad apps were downloaded in the first 24 hours, over 600k iBooks in the first few days. iPhone has 64% mobile browser share, over 50 million sold. Jobs presented a preview of iPhone OS 4 that includes multi-tasking (only 3GS and up), folders, unified mailbox and encrypted mail, iBooks for iPhone, game center, and a mixed blessing in iAd mobile advertising. iPhone OS 4 will be available this summer for the iPhone, in the Fall for the iPad. -- Posted Thursday, April 8, 2010 by chb

Microsoft moves Windows Mobile into the Windows Embedded business
Microsoft announced, mostly via a blog entry, a reorganization that makes handheld terminals and ruggedized devices part of the Windows Embedded Business. The company claimed the move will provide them with closer connection between the Windows Embedded CE and Windows Mobile product line that had been under Microsoft's Mobile Communications Business. Basically, this separates Windows Mobile, mostly a nice user interface sitting on top of Windows CE, from the consumer side of things that now concentrates on the upcoming Windows Phone 7. As David Wurster, senior product manager at Microsoft’s Windows Embedded Business, outlines, "with the transition of support to WEB, Microsoft gives the handheld terminal and ruggedized device products a holistic roadmap across both platforms and into the future." [See Microsoft blog entry] -- Posted Wednesday, April 7, 2010 by chb

Initial iPad feedback positive
Most initial feedback on the iPad has been very positive. Many stated it was indeed a new class of device, that battery life was excellent, the device quick and responsive, and the software very cool and innovative. There were also a few complaints. Some felt the display was a fingerprint magnet, some complained about weak WiFi and others about an iffy USB connection that resulted in lengthy charging and syncing. One particularly negative fellow at a former glory pub from the PC era has already demanded a recall. -- Posted Monday, April 5, 2010 by chb

Full review: Juniper Systems TK6000
The TK6000, introduced by Juniper Systems in the fall of 2009, represents another ultra-rugged, no-nonsense handheld computer from the Logan, Utah based company that specializes in field computing solutions for rugged applications such as land survey, natural resources, industrial, agriculture and the like. Initially designed for a Juniper Systems business partner (Carlson Surveyor), the ultra-rugged TK6000 is a product as much as a mobile platform for OEM solution providers. We had a TK6000 in the RuggedPCReview lab for a couple of months and here's our full report and review. [See full review of the Juniper Systems TK6000] -- Posted Monday, April 5, 2010 by chb

Finally: decent HD video on Atom boxes thanks to Broadcom card
The dirty little secret of millions of Atom N270-based netbooks (and pretty much all other Atom-based systems) is that they really cannot run HD video. If you try it, you get choppy video that creeps along at frame rates of no more than 10 frames per second max even with just 720p video, let alone 1080p. It's a huge disappointment for anyone who thought a "netbook" would surely be able to handle today's high definition media formats, and certainly an annoyance for many customers of vertical market Atom boxes as well. Well, third party to the rescue. [...more] -- Posted Sunday, April 4, 2010 by chb

WiFi iPad available as of April 3, 2010
Well, the WiFi-only version of the Apple iPad is now available in stores. Those who are holding out for the 3G version will have to wait a few more weeks. The media hype about the iPad is absolutely tremendous, with major newspapers proclaiming the start of the iPad era, articles like "Why the iPad changes everything" and so on. It'll simmer down or there will be a backlash, or not. No one knows. Pen Computing will provide a detailed discussion of the platform as soon as we get our 3G iPad. -- Posted Saturday, April 3, 2010 by chb

Audi adds character recognition to 2011 A8 Quattro
Much to the bafflement of automotive journalists everywhere who had never seen such magic, Audi's new megabuck 2011 A8 Quattro will have handwriting recognition in its new Multi Media Interface. For now, the recognizer, which is really a (non-unistroke) character recognizer, is used to enter navigation system data. Maybe Audi should license Graffiti. [See YouTube video on Audi's MMI recognition interface] -- Posted Friday, April 2, 2010 by chb

Gunze USA features multi-touch at 2010 SID
Everyone wants multi-touch, but not everyone is enamored with expensive projected capacitive touch screens that you can't operate with a stylus or with gloves. That's why Gunze USA partnered with Stantum to offer unlimited multi-touch on its resistive touch panels. The panels are immune to EMI, allow stylus input (needed for handwriting recognition), and work flawlessly with gloves. Solutions will be shown at 2010 SID Display Wee, May 25-27, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. -- Posted Thursday, April 1, 2010 by chb