Entegra Creates Modular Tablet Design With CrossfirePro

The tablet's design will enable users to swap out components, from chips to operating systems, to make them more customizable.

Entegra Technologies, a startup out of Plano, Texas, is rolling out a new tablet armed with a modular design and that is aimed at businesses and government agencies rather than consumers.

The company is bringing its CrossfirePro system into the teeth of a highly competitive space that features such large and established players like Apple and Samsung. However, Entegra executives said their device's modular design, high-end security and ruggedized features give it an advantage in the commercial space—in such places as hospitality, retail, hospitals and manufacturing—as well as the military and other governmental agencies.

The CrossfirePro tablet can withstand harsh environments, is difficult to hack into and is designed to avoid the rapid obsolescence of traditional, consumer-based tablets, including Apple's iPad and the range of devices running Google's Android mobile operating system.

"We do have an obsolescence issue, with a lot of our competitors spinning out new products every 18 to 24 months," Entegra CEO Steve Carpenter told eWEEK.

In a highly mobile and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) world, tablets increasingly are being used in the workplace, either being issued by companies to their employees or because of workers bringing their systems to work. Having to buy a new tablet every two years or so is a heavy financial burden on the company and its workers, Carpenter said.

The lifecycle of the CrossfirePro is closer to five to seven years, and can be upgraded and adapted as new technologies and components are released.

The tablet can run on x86 processors from Intel or Advanced Micro Devices, or on ARM-designed systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) that are licensed by other chip makers. It can run Microsoft's Windows, Android and Linux operating systems, and can support all current I/O connectors, and will include others as they become available. And all these can be swapped as desired. A tablet powered by an Intel chip running Windows can easily be refitted with an AMD chip and Android, Carpenter said.

And the systems, with their expansion bays, are designed to be armed with other small components, such as bar-code reader, magnetic swipe card reader, fingerprint scanner and smart card reader. Entegra has made some of these components itself, but company officials said the CrossfirePro's open design will encourage third parties to create their own technologies for the tablet. Entegra also has built handles, desk dock and a point-of-sale dock for the device.

The CrossfirePro also comes with various levels of security, including a trusted platform module (TPM) for encryption, which is designed to better protect it against attacks, according to Doug Fowler, senior vice president of engineering.

The device comes with a 9.7-inch display that can be easily read in the daylight and offers a resolution of 1024 by 768. The tablet, which is 2.5 pounds, also includes multiple inputs, from touch and glove to a stylus. It supports WiFi and 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE), high-definition cameras on the front and back, and programmable user keys for such tasks as taking a photo or launching an application.

The tablets can be ordered immediately, with deliveries starting in July, and start at $1,000. Carpenter said he's confident Entegra has found the right technology for the right niche. Now the job is to make sure the company can scale, he said. Entegra has aligned itself with a large contract manufacturer, and now is trying to grow its workforce from 16 to about 35.

The idea of modularity in mobile devices is getting some interest from vendors. Officials with Google's Motorola unit since last year have talked about their work with Project Ara, an effort to develop a modular smartphone that they said in a blog in October has a goal to "drive a more thoughtful, expressive, and open relationship between users, developers and their phones. To give you the power to decide what your phone does, how it looks, where and what it's made of, how much it costs, and how long you'll keep it."