Wireless-minded laptop takes on the world

For the past five years, Omniterra Solutions Inc. has been looking for a less-cumbersome mobile communication setup for its travelling employees. Thanks to a Canadian computer maker, the firm has finally found a solution.

During pilot projects for Omniterra’s asset management software, the firm’s employees used mobile phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs) to view information while on the move. However, the portable devices had their drawbacks. The screen sizes were too small and connectivity was too slow to handle the complex documents that Omniterra’s staffers were working with.

In May, Mel Hughes, CIO of Omniterra in Ottawa, said the company decided to try Eurocom Corp.’s new M190S World Warrior laptop computer to solve its mobile device problem.

Hughes was impressed with the World Warrior. It comes with General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) connectivity for wide area wireless connections, as well as the full functionality of a desktop computer, features enough to solve Omniterra’s trouble.

The device “blew me away from the first time I saw it,” Hughes said. “It’s fully equipped.”

Marc Bialic, president of Ottawa-based Eurocom, said the World Warrior was designed to essentially replace the office for roving workers. He noted that industries like construction, real estate, transportation and agriculture would benefit from the computer, which provides faxing capabilities, Internet and e-mail functionality, file sharing and a built-in antenna for either GPRS or code division multiple access (CDMA).

According to Omniterra, with the World Warrior, employees can manipulate reports in the software of their choice and provide Omniterra’s clients with information they need to manage physical assets.

The World Warrior comes with either the Windows XP or Windows 2000 operating system, and has a maximum of 1GB of RAM. It offers a data connection speed of 56Kbps.

Although the machine is equipped for either GPRS or CDMA, Bialic said to date, Eurocom hasn’t sold a model equipped with CDMA.

Bialic said GPRS is more flexible and universal than CDMA. GPRS connectivity is available in many places, whereas CDMA is known as a North America-only technology. Bialic said people want to make sure they will be able to use their machines worldwide. He added that customers are moving away from telecom providers like Telus Corp. that specialize in CDMA, to companies that offer GPRS.

Warren Chaisatien, a senior telecom analyst at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, said the mobile data market should generate $104 million in revenue this year.

“On the device front we can see that a lot of device manufacturers, including Eurocom, are trying to incorporate all this wireless connectivity into their device…which helps build up user momentum and demand,” Chaisatien said. “By the end of 2007, [IDC] expects this mobile wireless data market to be worth $949 million.”

He added that although significant growth is expected in the wireless sector, voice remains the “killer app.” This year the cellular voice market will be worth $7.4 billion, he said.

In the future, Bialic said he sees World Warrior machines equipped with Wi-Fi and GPRS functionality, as well as built-in video cameras to allow remote workers such as engineers to view and share pictures and video of different projects in real-time.

However, according to Rob Enderle, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based research analyst with Forrester Research Inc., the notebook computer won’t replace the cell phone.

“The portability advantage that the phones enjoy will keep them favoured for the near term or until, and unless, wearable computers come into vogue.”

Hughes from Omniterra said the only improvement he would make to the World Warrior would be to have wireless headphone capabilities built into the machine, making the unit completely wireless.

The World Warrior has a base price of $1,549 with an additional $390 for GPRS functionality or $380 for CDMA. For more information, Eurocom can be found online at www.eurocom.ca