Motorola MC3100 Series Adds to Rugged Device Lineup

Motorola's ruggedized MC3100 Series of mobile devices features gun, turret or straight-shooter form factors, keypad options, faster processors and a choice of Microsoft operating systems.

Motorola introduced the MC3100 Series of ruggedized handhelds on Nov. 3, in three form factors: a "straight shooter," a turret head and a gun scanner. The handheld devices are updates to Motorola's MC3000 family and intended for indoor use, such as warehousing, retail environments and distribution centers.

In September, Motorola's updated MC9500, a rugged field-service handheld for outdoor use, was introduced with new features, such as the ability for a company to switch between CDMA-EvDO (Code Division Multiple Access/Evolution Data Optimized) and GSM HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) cellular radios, optimized for the strongest network in the area where the device was deployed.

The scanning-focused MC3100 Series interacts with an enterprise's WLAN via 802.11 a, b and g bands. Several new features in the MC3100 series, however, mimic innovations presented in the MC9500. For example, a Motorola Max Sensor enables the device to sense when the display is face down and put itself into sleep mode to save battery life. Also, when a user offers a view of the screen to someone else, the screen can automatically shift from landscape to portrait mode, without the user having to let go or shift the device to a less ergonomic position.

The accelerometer in the devices can track how often they're being dropped, enabling an enterprise to address any use issues.

In addition to the three form factor choices, there are three keypads to choose from, and the option of a Symbol SE950 1D laser scanner-for accurate scans of even damaged bar codes-or a Symbol SE4500 1D/2D scanner, which can capture 1D and 2D bar codes, as well as direct part marks, images and documents. Each handheld includes a 624MHz Marvell XScale PXA320 processor and a choice of Windows CE 6.0 Pro or Windows Mobile 6.X Classic.

"Microsoft is pleased to work with Motorola to extend the power of the PC by fueling the rich user experiences and streamlined connectivity [that] enterprise users and consumers demand from emerging specialized devices," Microsoft Director of Product Management Mukund Ghangurde said in a statement. "Motorola's MC3100 is a strong example of a device offering a choice of Microsoft operating tools for application developers."

The MC3100 series features Motorola's MPA (Mobility Platform Architecture) 2.0, which enables applications from other Motorola mobile computers to be ported over to the new devices. MPA also increases security options through Max Secure, which includes FIPS 140-2 certification, required for government deployments, as well as authentication algorithms and VPN support.

The ruggedness of the devices has been boosted. "When we do our drop tests, we do it six times on each side across a range of temperatures," Sheldon Safir, a Motorola director of product marketing, told eWEEK. The MC3100 Series can be used in uncomfortable temperatures from -4 degrees F to 122 degrees F.

Safir added, "The [3-inch], 320 by 320 color touch screen provides about 30 percent better resolution than you get with a QVGA. We worked on making the glass and touch panel as strong as we could, and they can be used with a stylus, [a] finger or even while wearing a glove."

In the current economy, Safir said, productivity is key, and Motorola's goal with the new series was to enable enterprises to be as effective and efficient as possible. This led to features such an integrated RFID (radio-frequency identification) tag in the handle of the scanner, enabling it to be located in bustling warehouse, for example.

Pricing for the MC3100 series, which is now shipping, ranges from $1,295 to $1,995.

"We're seeing an approach [calling] for more planning and more expectation than we did a year ago," Safir said, "and we're trying to provide [a] product that enables each of those dollars to be spent in a more productive manner."