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Itronix tablet offers tri-mode connectivity

Rugged device maker Itronix has released a new tablet PC that offers three types of connectivity methods: Bluetooth, wireless LAN and wireless WAN. An analyst says the tablet provides the mobile flexibility that field force workers need.

Itronix Corp. on Monday announced the availability of its rugged tablet PC, one of the first such devices to offer three radios for wireless connectivity.

The Spokane, Wash.-based rugged computing device manufacturer designed the GoBook Tablet PC for field force workers in government, utilities, telecommunications companies and any other industries where workers need rugged wireless devices, said Matt Gerber, vice president of marketing for Itronix.

The device is significant because it is one of the first to utilize three different connectivity methods: Bluetooth, wireless local area network, and wireless wide area network, said Tim Shea, senior analyst with Natick, Mass.-based research firm Venture Development Corp. The device supports both general packet radio service (GPRS) and code division multiple access (CDMA) version 1xRTT, also known as CDMA2000.

According to Rob Enderle, a research fellow with the Cambridge, Mass.-based firm Forrester Research, that's just the kind of mobile flexibility that field force workers need.

"You can't depend on what kind of radio service is going to be in the field," Enderle said. "You could be in an oil field in the middle of the Sahara Desert or in downtown New York City. The only standard requirement is that you've got to be connected."

The device is also light (less than 4 pounds) and smaller than many other rugged tablets.

Gerber said that the battery lasts between three and three and a half hours while using the wireless capability. An extra battery pack can be added.

The device is likely to replace some existing tablets, as companies are drawn to the fuller functionality, said Alan Promisel, an analyst with Framingham. Mass.-based research firm International Data Corp. Others that are using notebooks may find the tablet to be a better fit, he added.

Itronix has been gaining market share in the rugged device market for the last two years. In that time, it has doubled its share of the rugged device market from 15% to 31%, according to Venture Development Corp. It is now only a few points away from overtaking Panasonic Mobile Communications Co. Ltd., which had been a dominant force in the market.

Itronix, however, continues to work under the dark cloud of its holding company, Acterna Corp. The Germantown, Md., communications testing and management company filed for bankruptcy May 6. Enderle said that Itronix remains profitable and that the bankruptcy should not interfere with Itronix.

According to Itronix, the GoBook Tablet PC will be priced under $3,000.

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