Motorola has begun shipping a compact phone aimed at mobile enterprise workers across a number of different vertical sectors.

The MC55 Enterprise Digital Assistant (EDA) is a ruggedised handset measuring 5.78 inch (height), 3.03 inch (width) and 1.06 inch (depth) without the antenna. The MC55 comes in two models, namely the MC5590 and the MC5574, and is available in multiple configurations.

Both models are available with either a numeric or Qwerty keypad. It has a 3.5 inch 320 x 240 colour touch-screen, running Microsoft's Windows Mobile 6.1 (Classic or Professional) platform.

The EDA weighs 315 grams (or 11.1 ounces), and has a standard 2400 mAh lithium ion battery, as well as an extended 3600 mAh battery option. Motorola didn't reveal typical talk and standby times for these batteries, only that the "battery options provide ample power for full shift usage in the vast majority of applications."

According to Steve Schmid, senior product director at Motorola's Enterprise Mobility business, the MC55 is designed to replace Motorola's existing PPT8800 and MC50 handsets. It also designed to complement Motorola's existing MC70/MC75 rugged EDA products.

"The MC5590 EDA offers wireless LAN (WLAN) and Bluetooth connectivity for workers mostly inside the four walls, such as healthcare workers in a hospital environment, as well as retail or hospitality associates," Schmid told Techworld via email.

"The MC5574 EDA comes equipped with wireless WAN (WWAN), wireless LAN (WLAN) and Bluetooth to support workers in the field, including maintenance personnel, police officers, postal and delivery workers," he said.

The device is powered by Intel's XScale PXA270 520MHz processor with 128MB RAM and 256MB of Flash memory, as well as a microSD card slot for additional storage (up to 8GB). The device is compatible with Motorola's Mobility Services Platform for provisioning and management.

Motorola has managed to incorporate a lot of functionality into the MC55 as it includes Bluetooth, Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g), GSM/GPRS/EDGE, a GPS chip, as well as a barcode scanner and a camera. It is also VoIP enabled. However, a surprising omission is the lack of 3G connectivity though.

"In recent years we have seen strong growth in mobile field-based applications - as evidenced by the 650,000 plus MC70s/MC75s deployed since introduction," Schmid said. "It is the smallest and lightest Motorola rugged EDA - and includes the functionality of a cell phone, bar code scanner, digital camera, two-way radio and mobile computer into one business-class device.

The two-way radio option is worth noting, as Europe has not really experienced the push to talk option that was such a popular option for business users in the United States, from Nextel Communications (now Sprint Nextel). Think of the push to talk option as a "walkie-talkie" option for a mobile handset.

"Over the wireless LAN, PTT voice is supported via Motorola's TEAM (Total Enterprise Access and Mobility) Express solution, which is server-less," said Schmid. "The TEAM Express client on the MC55 enables virtually instant communications with other associates using MC55s, MC75s, or other Motorola devices equipped with the TEAM Express software."

As would be expected, Motorola has toughened the handset, apparently thanks to a patent-pending monocoque housing. The handset is sealed to IP54 specifications in order to survive harsh environments (typically water and dust), and has the ability to survive a 4 foot drop to concrete and 250 half metre tumbles (500 hits).

This pushes the MC55 to a stated three to five year lifespan which Motorola says is two to three times longer than that of an average consumer-grade PDA. This is just as well, as it doesn't come cheap.

The MC5590 (WLAN model) ranges between £1,222 ($1,695) to £1,366 ($1,895). The MC5574 (WWAN model) meanwhile costs from £1,294 ($1,795) to £1,438 ($1,995). Motorola says that it is significant that it only costs an extra $100 to add WAN and GPS capability, "making field mobility much more affordable for enterprises small and large."