IBM launches new products

IBM Corp. will officially launch the ThinkPad TransNote, a digital ink and notebook PC hybrid device, at the Mobile Insights conference in Phoenix this week.

Mobile Insights, the annual gathering of mobile industry executives, will also see additional product announcements and technology previews from Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Symbol Technologies Inc., and Synchrologic Inc.

The IBM TransNote will go on sale this week at a starting price of US$2,999 with an Intel Corp. Pentium III 600-MHz processor, a 10.4-inch TFT screen, and a 10GB hard drive.

What makes the TransNote unique is the other half of the system that is connected to a digital notepad dubbed the ThinkScribe by IBM.

The ThinkScribe allows a user to write using an ink-filled digital pen. Any type of paper sits atop an electronic grid array that senses and captures the pen movements and uses an RF transmitter to send the saved file to the notebook. The TransScribe captures the pen strokes as a graphics file and has 2MB of flash memory, which can store about 50 pages of handwritten notes. Although in a graphics file, notes can be searched by keyword, date, and subject matter, among other parameters.

The TransNote was developed as a direct result of customer research according to Leo Suarez, director of worldwide product marketing for IBM Mobile Systems in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

According to Suarez research indicated that some users were frustrated over the need to constantly switch between pen and paper and a computer.

“Lawyers in a courtroom are one example. Now they can send notes wirelessly directly to their secretary,” Suarez said. He also pointed to the health care and insurance industries where the ability to switch between pen and paper and computer would be helpful.

The device with the computer on the left and the notepad on the right, (or vice versa for left-handed users) folds into what appears to be a 12.6-inch-by-11-inch-by-1.3-inch-thick traditional notebook. The entire unit weighs 5.5 pounds, including pen and a paper pad.

Once opened the screen slides up into a vertical position and locks while the ThinkScribe side remains flat.

“This is like a concept car product that demonstrates leadership and innovation,” said Gerry Purdy, president of Mobile Insights in Mountain View, Calif.

According to Suarez, it was a simple step to combine electronic inking and capture technology from IBM’s Watson Research center and notebook technology from its ThinkPad division.

In other news at Mobile Insights, chipmaker AMD in Austin, Texas, unveiled what it called a technology preview of its 950-MHz, Athlon mobile processor code-named Palamino. The Palamino will use AMDs PowerNow technology which changes the systems voltage and speed based on CPU utilization.

“Every 15 milliseconds it polls the system to see CPU utilization. If utilization increases it speed up and increases the voltage,” said Laureen Chernow, an AMD spokesperson.

The Palamino version of the PowerNow technology can change its voltage in six steps rather than in four steps as it did on slower chips. Users can expect as much as a 30 percent increase in battery life, Chernow said.

Symbol Technologies, a licensee of the Palm Inc. and Win CE operating systems, also unveiled an as-yet unannounced product, the PDT 8100 handheld. The ruggedized Palm device combines Bluetooth technology with 802.11B and voice over IP for local area networks. It will ship in July.

Among Symbol’s first customers will be Coca Cola Co. for route drivers and Avis Rent-a-Car. As Avis’ fleet is upgraded to incorporate auto diagnostics that can be externally accessed over wireless technologies such as Bluetooth, Avis agents will be able to poll a returned car for possible problems, including some caused by the customer.

For example, excess braking force used during the rental – which might indicate an unreported accident – will be logged by the auto diagnostic system and transmitted to the agent who would investigate further.

Avis agents will also use the voice capability to phone the central office for authorization to drive Avis Key Executive Card holders to the terminal.

Synchrologic based in Alpharetta, Ga., will also use the Mobile Insights conference to give the first public demonstration of its SyncML wireless technology.

When complete, SyncML wireless will become part of the Ready SyncGo service and give handset and PDA users the ability to update calendar and contact information wirelessly.