MPC Preps Laptops for Battle

MPC Computers armors notebooks with technology that meets Department of Defense regulations.

MPC Computers LLC is extending its TransPort notebook line to include separate families of systems equipped with additional security and authentication features and targeted at government and commercial users.

Two notebooks aimed at federal customers—which are due to be released before the federal buying season ramps up in the spring—will offer a hybrid of new technology and legacy support.On the legacy side, a thin-and-light notebook and a three-spindle desktop replacement computer will support serial and parallel ports and will offer two PCMCIA slots and integrated floppy drives, said officials at the Nampa, Idaho, company.

New technology that will adorn the systems will include integrated smart-card readers. Smart cards carry biometric data about the user and are inserted into the notebook and then read by the software. If the smart-card reader, which is required under new Department of Defense regulations, does not recognize the data on the card, the computer will not turn on, officials said.

U.S. Air Force consultant Katrina Willins said the goal of the DOD requirement regarding smart cards, which was issued last year and takes effect in April, is to enable users to digitally sign encrypted e-mail. Right now, Willins said, most smart-card readers are external devices, so having the device integrated would be a plus for users.

"There are not many options to us right now," said Willins, consultant at the Air Force PKI Systems Program Office, in San Antonio. "Most of those are stand-alones. It would be one less component that would need to be carried around if it was actually integrated into the laptop."

For added security, the notebooks will continue to offer integrated TouchChip fingerprint technology from STMicroelectronics N.V., of Geneva. In addition, the forthcoming notebooks will come with integrated Gigabit Ethernet support and toolless removable hard drives.

Custom-fit notebooks

MPC is tailoring its notebook offerings for federal and commercial customers

Federal Notebooks Will Offer:

  • Legacy support Serial and parallel ports, PCMCIA slots, integrated floppy drives
  • New technology Integrated smart-card readers, Gigabit Ethernet support, toolless removable hard drive

Commercial Notebook Will Offer:

  • Thin-and-light design, full Centrino package, advanced graphics capabilities

The biometric fingerprinting technology and toolless configurability are important in situations on battlefields, where smart cards and screwdrivers may not be handy, MPC officials said.

For commercial customers, MPC next quarter will roll out a separate thin-and-light notebook slated to replace its TransPort T2000 model. The unnamed notebook will offer the full Intel Corp. Centrino platform—which includes the Pentium M chip, accompanying chip set and Wi-Fi components—and advanced graphics capabilities via ATI Technologies Inc.s upcoming Mobility Radeon 9700 chip. Unlike MPCs two-spindle T2100, the system will offer support for such legacy technology as serial and parallel ports, a port replicator, and external graphics.