Welcome to Reviews OnLine: MobileFocus Event at Fall Comdex 1999
by Rick Smith (Sunday evening, November 14, 1999)

This press event was held at Caesars Palace from 7 to 10 PM, and covered some of the latest products in portable computers, wireless phones, PDAs and other mobile technology. Jim Bennett and I carried some of this technology with us as we visited this event - see "taking IT on the Road". MobileFocus was held at the same time as DigitalFocus.

The following sponsors were scheduled to exhibit at DigitalFocus:

Dragon Systems
Fusion One

Aqcess Qbe Personal Computing tablet
This mobile device combines the power of a color pen tablet computer with speech recognition capability and a CCD camera. It weights four pounds, measures 10"x14"x1.5" and is enclosed in a durable magnesium alloy case. Initially, it will be powered by a 400 Mhz Celeron processor and features a 13.3" TFT screen, 4.3 GB hard drive, 64 MB RAM, removable Modem/Ethernet card, microphone, stereo speakers, Smartcard reader/writer, mag stripe reader, USB port and a Firewire port. It also offers a hot-swappable device bay which can accept additional peripherals such as CD-R, CD-RW or DVD drives. The rechargeable lithium ion battery runs the Qbe Personal Computing Tablet for 2.5 to 4 hours and with optional batteries, it can run for 8 hours. It runs Windows 98 or NT and retails for $3,495, which includes a compact keyboard, mouse and port replicator. Optionally, Aqcess offers the Qbicle multimedia docking station that provides another hot-swappable device bay, more I/O ports, a full sized keyboard and mouse, high fidelity stereo speakers and a battery charger.

Kain K. Johnson, VP Sales & Marketing, Aqcess Technologies
Kain demonstrates how the Aqcess Qbe (pronounced "cube") would be used.

Gateway Solo Portable PC
The Gateway portable products displayed at MobileFocus consisted of the Solo 2150, Solo 2550 and the Solo 9300. The starting price of these models range from $1,495 to $2,495. The Solo 2150 is for price conscious consumers and starts at $1,495 for a Celeron 400 Mhz system with AGP 2X graphics and 12.1 LCD screen. The Solo 2550 starts at $1,999 for an Intel Pentium III (read more about mobile Pentium III processor) system with AGP 2X graphics and a 13.3" LCD screen. Gateway's flagship model, the Solo 9300 can have either a 14.1" or the huge, true 15" display with either a Celeron or Pentium III processor. The 9300 starts at $2,495 and includes an internal 56K modem, Firewire port and USB port and removable hard drive.

The Solo 9300 laptop shown has a 15 inch screen combined with a Pentium III 450 MHz processor, hard drive, 2X AGP with 8 megabytes of video RAM, media bay (for floppy/CD/DVD/2nd battery use) and modem into a sub 8 pound package. It retails for under three thousand and appears to be a no-compromise lightweight desktop (ever weigh your tower and monitor?) replacement.

Intel Mobile Pentium III Processor
The mobile version of the Pentium III processor from Intel is currently available in the three speeds of 400, 450 and 500 Mhz. It is built using an .18 micron process technology and features a:

  • 100 Mhz processor bus for faster memory access
  • 256K on die L2 cache for better performance
  • micro PGA/BGA packaging for thinner and lighter portables
  • Quick Start feature for extended battery life

    The mobile Pentium III uses 70 Internet SIMD (Streaming Single Instruction Multiple Data) instructions to increase performance in streaming multimedia and graphics applications on and off the Internet. These instructions can:

  • draw 3-D graphics faster and smoother
  • increase video frame rate for smoother playback
  • accelerate audio (MP3) and video downloads
  • speed up Web page graphics refresh rates
  • improve speech recognition

    The Intel Mobile Pentium III processor has recently been added to the Armada E700, M700 and E500 product lines giving Compaq the most complete mobile Pentium III product line in the industry.

    Sony/Etak Skymap 2000 screen showing downtown Chicago
    Etak has recently launched their latest version of the Skymap for the new millennium - Sony SkyMap 2000. It merges Etak's excellent 6.5 million mile database of GPS maps, with real time traffic reports and weather information via the Internet. While I had some initial problems getting the GPS antenna working for the Reviews OnLine "road trip", the SkyMap 2000 did work very well with the older PCMCIA hardware on ALL the laptops we took on the trip. I even tried the voice recognition features on the trip back from Las Vegas. Being able to control the software via my voice AND remote control was REALLY cool! All I would add is to have an integrated heads up or console display, like the Delphi Network Vehicle prototype I photographed last year.

    Iomega's new 250 megabyte USB Zip drive
    This ultra-sleak Zip drive weighs only 10 ounces and has been shipping for a few months. It is fully compatible with both the 100 Mb and 250 Mb Zip disk media and runs under Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0 and MacOS 8.1 and above. What makes this product truly unique is the separately sold PCMCIA cable that connects this device to notebooks running Windows 95 or Windows 98. This makes this device compatible with most laptops in use today even if they don't have a USB port. Also, the color is an excellent shade of blue - wonderful!

    Also on display was the Iomega Clik! PC Card drive. This drive weighs less than TWO ounces and from personal experience is a fantastic addition to any laptop! (See our first look at this device.)

    Reviews OnLine made extensive use of Clik! technology during Comdex. We were shooting with 6 cameras and 5 of these used flash memory technology. Since we didn't want to carry a laptop around to download pictures via USB cable, I carried a battery operated, portable Clik! drive and used it to download pictures. Since it is compatible with BOTH SmartMedia and CompactFlash memory, the portable Clik! drive is a VERY useful digital photographer's tool. I only wish that the portable Clik! drive was compatible with 32 megabyte SmartMedia cards, like it is with 40 megabyte CompactFlash memory cards. Since it isn't, I had to use the Clik! drive every 10 shots or so, instead of every 40. (I was using an 8 megabyte SmartMedia card.) Even though I used the Clik! drive more often due to the smaller card, this portable Clik! drive worked extremely well in the real "battle" conditions of Comdex Fall for over 500 high-resolution pictures. Most of the pictures in this Comdex coverage were stored on Clik! Media and I recommend the Iomega Clik! drive to everyone with a digital camera that uses SmartMedia or CompactFlash technology, unless you want to drag your laptop around with you to download pictures.

    When I wanted to use 32 megabyte SmartMedia, we used the Antek USB memory reader, which is also compatible with SmartMedia memory and CompactFlash memory along with the full-sized Type II PCMCIA storage cards. It requires a USB laptop and worked flawlessly on the "road trip".

    Casio Cassiopeia Fiva laptop
    This ultra-small portable weighs under 2 pounds, but is only slightly larger than most Windows CE HPC devices. It runs "real" Windows and is about the same size as the Toshiba Libretto.

    Casio Cassiopeia Fiva pen tablet
    This pen computer runs Windows 98 and has handwriting recognition - impressive.

    Handspring Visor
    This PDA runs Palm OS (licensed from 3Com) and features easy device connectivity via the "Springboard" connector.

    Handspring staffers show off their new PDA

    More coverage of the MobileFocus event

    Copyright 1999 Rick Smith All rights reserved.

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    Desktop PCs & Servers
      Ergo Thunder Brick 2
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