Motorola Pushes New Ruggedized Smartphones
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Motorola this week unveiled a new lineup in its stable of smartphones designed to survive in both a rugged work environment as well as a tight economy.
The two models in its new Enterprise Digital Assistant (EDA) MC55 line each feature a 3.5-inch display with a full keyboard and wireless connectivity, but differ in focus: The MC5590 is designed specifically for indoor mobile use, while the MC5574 is for those who work outdoors.
The launches continue efforts by mobile device makers to pack a growing array of features into their wares along with greater integration with enterprise software. Both are becoming critical selling points as employees increasingly rely on their mobile devices in lieu of full-fledged PCs -- particularly in the field.
"More and more in the mobile computing business, we see the site of the enterprise being stretched further away from the four walls of the [office] -- folks are more in the field and need to accomplish their business away from their business," said Sheldon Safir, director of mobile computing for Motorola's (NYSE: MOT) enterprise mobility division. "We now have the capacity to provide everyone from the corner office to the loading dock with an appropriate device."
It's also a key launch for Motorola, which continues looking to wring more value from its 2006 acquisition of Symbol Technologies, which has since become a cornerstone of its enterprise mobility offerings -- and represents one of the troubled mobile pioneer's strongest units.
The two new EDA MC55 models fit in the mid-range among Motorola's range of enterprise-grade smartphones, which it dubs "mobile computers," and which include features like barcode scanners and ruggedized assembly.
In keeping with the rest of the company's EDA offerings, the two new MC55 units are built to withstand a four-foot drop on concrete. Both models have color QVGA (320 x240) display screens and are VoIP-ready, in addition to having 128MB SDRAM and 256MB Flash.
The MC55 is based on the Marvell XScale PXA270 520MHz processor and Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.1 operating system. A number of add-ons are also available, such as a 1D laser scanner, a 2D imager and a two-megapixel digital color camera.
In regard to battery performance, Motorola says each smartphone has 100 hours of standby time and six hours of talk time. They both use a rechargeable lithium ion 3.7V, 2400 mAh smart battery for a power source.
And since they come in two configurations, they're also designed to reduce the cost for enterprise customers because they only pay for one model with the features they need -- rather than for a more expensive, one-size-fits-all model that's not fully applicable to their business.
The MC5590 is designed for employees who work indoors, for instance healthcare and retail workers, who rely on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections. It can also function as a mobile phone, two-way radio, bar-code scanner, digital camera and mobile computer. The model weighs 11.1 ounces, and pricing starts at $1,695.
"In healthcare, the 5590, because of its sealed nature, it can be wiped down," Safir said. "It is what we call a truly 'pocketable' device because it's compact, and really can fit in a pocket." He also said that the 5590 could be used for taking orders tableside at a restaurant or for curb-side check-in at hotels.
For people who work outdoors, for example postal carriers and maintenance crews, there is the MC5574. It includes the 5590's functionality, and weighs in at 11.8 ounces, but also has wireless WAN capability and GPS. Pricing starts at $1,795.
"It has GPS built into it, so for people who have routes, folks going from one location to another -- the appliance repairman or the cable guy -- they can not only get location of their next job, but the route, so they can get more done in a shift," Safir said.
Android on hold
If you're wondering whether Motorola has plans for the MC55 line to support the Google Android open-source mobile platform -- as is the plan in other areas of the mobile giant's business -- Safir said it's under consideration, but only for the long-term.
"We continue to always explore what makes sense in terms of operating systems," Safir said. "We have for the moment settled on the Windows Mobile OS as our platform of choice, though we are always willing [to work with] customers who need a specific OS for a very large deployment."
"For us, it is a costly and time-consuming operation to change OSes, but we also want to be cognizant of the needs of our customers."
Update corrects pricing on the MC5574.