Current Cover (3068 bytes)
Current Cover

Recent issues

HOME | Windows Mobile | Palm OS | Features | Pen Computers | Tablet PCs | Subscribe | Case Studies | Industry leaders

August/September 1995

Pen Lab Review

Panasonic JT-900PT

Panasonic extends its Data Partner line with a full-fledged pen computer.

The U.S. market doesn't have a monopoly on pen computers. Every so often we hear of exciting new products in Japan, Taiwan, or other Asian countries and we sigh because we know we may never get to see them. The original Japanese Sharp Zaurus was such a product. For as much as we like the US-style Zaurus, we liked its Japanese namesake, smaller and with handwriting recognition, even better. At Comdex, we came across a number of interesting PacRim pen products and tablets, but the answer was always the same: not for the US market!

We are therefore pleased to report that none other than Panasonic is seriously considering introducing a pen computer to the US market that is now sold only in Japan. We're talking about the Panasonic JT-900, an extremely compact Windows-capable 486 pen based PC that weighs less than two pounds. The unit was originally custom designed for a large Japanese company. Apparently, the client liked what they saw: after testing an initial run of 500 JT-900s, they ordered 22,000 more. Impressed with this sort of confidence in their new product, and aware of the increasing success of vertical market pen hardware vendors such as Telxon, Norand, Symbol and others, Panasonic decided to determine stateside interest in the JT-900. As a result, Panasonic has been showing a small number of units to potential customers. Response must have been positive as the company plans on making the unit available for sale in the US around December 1995.

Let's take a look at Panasonic's prospective offering: It measures roughly 8.5 by 5.5 inches and is only 1.2 inches thick, i.e. it is similar in size to Telxon's PTC-1134 486/25 Windows terminal or the now defunct Dauphin DTR-1, smaller than a Fujitsu Stylistic, and not that much bigger than an Apple Newton MessagePad. At 1.92 pounds, it weighs less than any of its direct competitors, making it quite handy to carry around all day.

The JT-9000PT is powered by an Intel 486SX running at 33MHz, has a backlit 6.3-inch STN monochrome LCD that measures 6.3" diagonally. The screen uses a resistive digitizer, i.e. you don't need an electric pen. Standard RAM is 8MB, expandable to 16MB. Mass storage comes in the form of a 130MG PCMCIA hard drive. The unit also has one extra PCMCIA Type II slot. Power is supplied through a Ni-MH battery pack or an AC adapter. There is an optical 2MBPS interface for the base station. The standard operating system will be MS-DOS 6.2 and Windows for Pen Computing. Unlike other pen tablets, the JT-9000PT has a numeric keypad for rapid numerical data entry.

As of this writing, pricing has not been decided. Panasonic official indicate that their new pen system will be price-competitive with comparable units, such as the Fujitsu Stylistic.

It's too early to determine the full impact of the Panasonic JT-9000PT. Its success in Japan indicates potential, and there is certainly enough room in the rapidly expanding market for vertical market pen systems in health care, sales and field force automation. Stay tuned for more.-