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Motorola debuts MC3100 rugged handheld

Motorola Inc. announced a next-generation ruggedized handheld computer, the MC3100, that includes an accelerometer and is equipped with an RFID tag to make it easy to find if lost in a large warehouse.

The MC3100, shipping now, sells for $1,295 to $1,995, depending on which of three form factors are chosen to enable ergonomic use for mainly warehouse workers and baggage handlers who need to do quick and repetitive bar-code scanning. The form factors are a gun grip, a straight shooter (without a grip) or a rotating head, said Sheldon Safir, director of marketing for enterprise mobility solutions at Motorola. The devices weigh in the range of 15 ounces to 18.3 ounces.

The MC3100 is the next generation in a family of popular MC3000 devices, which have sold 750,000 units since 2004, Safir said in an interview. The MC3100, with its keypad and touchscreen inputs, uses the same three major form factors of the MC3000, with numerous updates inside.

The updated MC3100 runs on either Windows Mobile 6.1 or Windows Embedded CE 6.0 Pro. Customers can choose between a 1 dimension laser scanner or a 1D/2D imager for capturing 1D and 2D bar codes.

The accelerometer and related software, branded by Motorola as MAX Sensor, can help businesses use motion sensing applications for cost savings. For example, Sensor will help detect and log when a device is dropped and will help rever the MC3100 to sleep mode when it is not in use or placed face down. Accelerometer technology, used in a host of popular smartphones such as the iPhone, can also be used in the MC3100 to allow the user to move the display from landscape to portrait mode.

Similar accelerometer technology was introduced by Motorola in its MC9500 rugged industrial-class wireless handheld in mid-September that Fedex will adopt for use by up to 100,000 delivery workers.

While the 9500 is suited for indoor and outdoor uses and sells for about about $1,000 more per unit than the MC3100, Safir said the MC3100 is primarily designed for indoor settings such as retail stock rooms, warehouses, government agencies and a variety of distribution applications.

The MC9500 will support cellular connections, while the MC3100 is designed for wireless LANs in the 802.11a/b/g modes. It also supports voice over a wireless LAN, which is valuable to warehouse workers who pick items from shelves via machine-voice generated directions, Safir said.

The MC3100 is designed to survive drops as high as 4 feet to concrete and is FIPS 140-2 certified for security, with support for advanced encryption.

Motorola's Mobility Platform Architecture 2.0 allows users to port handheld applications from other Motorola mobile computers to the MC3100. In addition, the architecture allows IT shops to shut down a device remotely.

Responding to customer feedback on the earlier MC3000, Motorola decided to include an RFID tag inside the MC3100 handle. “We've heard from customers that folks put down a device and can't remember where it is,” Safir said. With an RFID reader, it can be easily located, he said.

Safir said Motorola expects competition, as usual, from other rugged handheld makers such as Intermec Technologies Corp., Psion Teklogix and LXE Inc. But Motorola leads the total market for rugged handhelds without about a 40% share; Intermec has about 20% and Psion and LXE each have less than 10%, according to VDC Research in Natick, Mass.

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