Symbol Technologies Inc.s newest handheld is designed to take a pounding, but the cost may scare some users away.
The forthcoming MC50 device, due in December, is built for either the enterprise or the loading dock, combining traditional rugged Symbol features with the functionality and form of other Pocket PC-based handhelds, as well as built-in support for 802.11b WLANs (wireless LANs) and VOIP (voice over IP).
Some of the industrial-strength features due in the MC50 include protection against shock, connectors and function buttons that are tested for extended use, and a protective screw-in cap over the devices SD (Secure Digital) slot. It also includes a 1.1-megapixel camera. Higher-end models include bar-code scanners.
All this extra stability comes at a price—$925—whereas most PDAs designed for business use cost between $400 and $600. Models of the MC50 with bar-code scanners start at $1,050.
Is it worth it? Symbol officials said the device is geared for users who travel back and forth between the office and more rugged environments such as factories and hospitals or for users in vertical markets such as retail.
"For the average consultant, theres not really a big demand for this, but for someone who spends a lot of time outdoors or for those in, for example, the oil industry, I can see a need," said Sean Jazayeri, CIO of Avanade Inc., a Seattle-based systems integrator of Microsoft Corp. technologies.
At least one analyst thinks the MC50s price is too high. "I think there is a market for a lower-cost [unit]," said Gartner Inc. analyst Ken Dulaney, in Stamford, Conn. "I do find that not offering a GSM/GPRS [Global System for Mobile Communications/General Packet Radio Service] or CDMA [Code Division Multiple Access]/1X option in this price and form-factor class leaves vendors like [Hewlett-Packard Co.] to continue to gain share in a viable and growing market."
Symbol officials said they will add such functionality into future products.
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