Pen Lab Review
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
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.-