Having sold its stake in the Symbian consortium, Psion Teklogix is using the money to get back to basics with a new heavy-duty wireless-enabled handheld device.
The Workabout Pro is a more businesslike, Windows-based version of the heavyweight Workabout, which has been in use by the warehousemen and the people who read your electricity meter since 1995. Psion Teklogix is aiming to extend those devices to a broader range of jobs with more IT-like functions and wireless integration with corporate systems. The device will develop in future to include voice communications.
Environments like shops are currently tempted to use ordinary PDAs, but these do not stand up to heavy treatment. "PDAs are not a good fit in those environments," said Todd Boone, senior product marketing manager. Although the Workabout Pro costs £900 for a colour model, it lasts much longer. "The total cost of ownership of a white-collar PDA over three to five years is in fact more," said Boone.
Like the company's 2003 update of its clamshell-shaped Netbook notebook, the new machine runs Windows CE, instead of the EPOC operating system which gave birth to Symbian, and includes wireless communication. With a PDA-like, quarter-VGA touchscreen, the Workabout Pro could almost be the kind of thing a white-collar office worker would use, apart from the chunky solid build and 55-key keyboard that extends below it, doubling the length.
Again, like the NetBook Pro, the wireless networking is not built in. Instead it takes PCMCIA, CD and compact flash cards, all of which are installed inside the case, either under the battery or in a separate compartment sealed with screws. This makes it more suitable for blue-collar staff, and more robust, explained Duncan Smillie, UK country manager. It can also have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi or GPRS.
For specific jobs, devices like scanners and readers can be bolted on with rechargeable batteries that last up to 12 hours (or eight hours if the radio is on). The device includes a microphone and speaker, with voice capability planned for a future version.
Having specialised in high-end handhelds, Psion Teklogix is taking on Symbol and Intermec with this model, which Smillie expects to be customised widely for specific jobs.