Transformers: Scanner to Communications Hub

Motorola is expanding its enterprise mobile tool kit with the launch of a device that combines wireless bar code reading, Voice over Internet Protocol telephony, high-speed data network access and walkie-talkie capabilities.

The CA50, priced at $540 and available this April, clearly reflects the technology marriage of Motorola and Symbol Technologies, the scanner company acquired for $39 billion in September, 2006.

Users can scan product bar codes to get information such as price and inventory levels, dial other agents for help, reach out to staff with the walkie-talkie function and pull up data off back-end systems with just a few clicks. Target markets are hospitality, retail and healthcare environments, though Motorola clearly sees other opportunities as well.

“This unique device converges all these capabilities — turning the scanner into a mobile computer. It will help companies boost customer service as it provides access to needed information whichever way it’s available,” Charles Laforge, director of advanced data capture for Motorola’s enterprise mobility business, told

Industry analyst Jack Gold doesn’t dispute that contention. Describing the CA50 as a very interesting device that’s more of a communications tool than a scanning device, Gold said it illustrates how the merger between the two vendors is propelling Symbol’s legacy ahead.

“What Motorola is able to provide Symbol is greater manufacturing capabilities and a better opportunity to produce good ergonomic and usability aspects in products,” he said.

That said, Gold doesn’t believe the 3.7-ounce gadget is the perfect device for every sales or service environment. “It’s still fairly expensive, though the price will drop fast in volume purchase, and it’s not everything for everyone. You need that back-end to tap into so it’s likely not a value proposition for the Mom and Pop shop,” he added.

Last June, Motorola debuted the third generation release of the MC17, a handheld kiosk that not only provides customers with look-up product data, but can send affinity data to customers who swipe their shopping card in the device.

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