Pen Lab Review
Rugged industrial handheld
Though Inforite Corporation is not a household name in the consumer electronics
or PC market, the company has sold more pen systems than almost anyone.
UPS alone bought over 60,000 Inforite portable data collection terminals
for its nationwide package delivery business. Inforite also makes the MP100
pen tablets for signature capture and forms. With the brand new Phoenix
handheld computer, the company is now going after the lucrative market for
industrial pen systems, a market which is currently dominated by companies
like Telxon, Norand, and Symbol, i.e. Inforite had its work cut out for
After an exhaustive series of interviews with prospective clients, product
manager Dwight Hunter came up with what looks like a very intelligent and
compelling design. The Phoenix measures only 9.9x5.5x1.75 inches and weighs
a mere 2.36 pounds, which means it's handy enough to be carried around with
ease. It has a razor sharp, 6-inch diagnonal (3.5' by 5'), 64 gray scale,
640x480 pixel VGA LCD screen with a pressure-sensitive digitizer. Hunter
chose a paper white screen for easy reading. The unit is rugged and designed
to survive a six foot drop onto concrete and submersion in water. The choice
of a processor was driven by the requirements of Inforite's target markets
(wholesale, field service, parcel delivery, and less-than-truckload), where
overall cost per installed seat and good battery life are of primary concern.
Inforite decided on a low poer consumption Am386SXLV CPU running at 25 Mhz.
This choice enables the Phoenix to run a minimum of eight hours on its rechargeable
NiMH battery pack. According to Hunter, a 486 version is possible. The Phoenix
comes with 2 MB of low power, slow refresh system DRAM (expandable to 16MB)
and an internal 4MB flash EPROM solid state disk. 8 and 16MB configurationas
are optional. The base unit does not include a hard disk, but has both a
Type II and a Type III PCMCIA slot, providing excellent expandability.
The Phoenix also contains a "point & shoot" internal Symbol
SE 1000 laser bar code scanner and decoder, and it has a full complement
of ports, including serial (16550 UARTcompatible), parallel, keyboard, and
an IrDA compliant inrared link. For vehicle operations, there is a communications/recharging
While the Inforite Phoenix runs Microsoft Windows and supports PenDOS, PenRight!,
C, and other high level languages and databases, many customers may choose
Inforite's own Rapid Application Development (RAD) tools, which sit on top
of Pen Pal Associates' Power Pen Pal development environment. Four shrinkwrapped
applications specifically developed for Inforite's target industries are
Enticingly, Hunter says that Inforite has done quite a bit of research in
voice recognition and that the Phoenix already contains a "hook"
for a PCMCIA-based voice recognition option which should become available
shortly. This will not be a dictation system, but rather a spoken command
recognizer geared towards further enhancing real life productivity in vertical
The Inforite Phoenix will become available in late June 1995 at a projected
price of $1,900. We predict it will be a very strong contender in the rugged
industrial computer market.