December 16, 2005 4:00 AM PST

Start-up merges cell phone and PC into a handheld

It's a cell phone. It's a computer. It's the two invaluable companions of the modern executive in one.

DualCor Technologies next month will unveil the cPC, a full-fledged handheld Windows XP computer that also comes with a built-in smart phone that runs Windows Mobile 5.0.

The cPC is 6.5 inches long, 3.3 inches wide, 1.2 inches thick and has a 5-inch diagonal screen. It will be aimed at sales representatives and executives who travel extensively, said CEO Steven Hanley, who joined the company seven months ago.

There are signs of demand for such a device. A small but growing number of white-collar workers have begun to trade in their notebooks for BlackBerrys and other handhelds.

Sony and start-up OQO have already introduced full-fledged handheld Windows computers. Customers, however, have not snapped up these devices, in part because of short battery life and limited performance.

Through some engineering and design advances, the cPC's battery lasts long enough to let users run applications simultaneously for eight hours or more, he said.

"We seemed to have cracked the code," Hanley claimed.

The cPc jams two devices into one package, Hanley said. The computer part of the equation consists of Windows XP Tablet operating system, a 1.5GHz C7-M processor from Via Technologies and 1GB of DDR 2 memory.

DualCor went with a Via Technologies chip because it consumed a maximum of 7.5 watts of power, but still provided enough performance to function like a regular computer.

"We had an older version that ran a Transmeta chip, but it took 7.5 to 9 seconds for the document to load," Hanley explained.

The cell phone aspect of the device has Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC phone edition, a PXA communications processor from Intel, 128MB of DRAM and 1GB of flash memory.

Together, the computer and cell phone components share a 40GB hard drive.

While this might look like component overkill, incorporating two distinct computing platforms extends the device's battery life. In full computing mode, the battery lasts about 3 to 4 hours, about the same as a standard laptop.

However, the device can run for eight to 12 hours in "smart phone" mode. Because of the memory footprint and other technology, users can access and receive e-mail in smart-phone mode and run applications such as PowerPoint in a limited fashion. As a result, the PC components and OS are asleep most of the time.

"When you pull up an application you can decide whether to run it in x86 mode or on the smart phone," he said. The choice between using the mobile parts or PC elements can also be automated.

The cPC also comes with a few additional features that add shine to its sparkle factor. The screen is made from special glass, manufactured by LG, which provides a brightness level of 200 NITS, which the company claims is brighter than most other smart phone screens.

The company figured how to include TabletPC functionality without incorporating a digitizer, which is an additional chip.

Users can also dock the cPC like a CPU, plugging it into an outlet and LCD screen and it will feel no different than using a regular desktop.

CONTINUED: OK, but how much will it cost?…
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10 comments

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When are we going to learn ?
Where is the WiFi ??
Nothing like developing a powerful device fully PC capable and limit it to only receive a Narrowband (300Kbps)at best Cell signal, when it could be getting a 3-4+Mbps feed.
If we cannot get both WiFi and Cell (which i do not yet understand) go with WiFi it will have a solid VoiceIP capability and will not cost you the big per minute rate.
The device seems to take care of the screen size issue but misses the big pipe piece.

Jacomo
Posted by jacomo (115 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Small steps
Get your foot in the door first. See if your product is marketable, then go from there. Don't start off with all the whizbangs and doodads, because then the consumer isn't exactly sure what you're trying to accomplish. When it comes to new product launches, the KISS principle is usually the best way to go.

Few companies take the Apple approach to throw everything in there all at once and overprice it to cover your costs, but not worry about your market share. When it comes to cell phones, you need the penetration because you're competing with BILLIONS of cell phones that are already on the market. Give it time. The technology will mature if it's marketable.
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
Link Flag
Basically a very good idea, but ...
I am looking around to buy a pocket computer, and have done a lot of research. I looked at the OQO but decided against it because it is too heavy to carry in your pocket, has no phone, no vibrating alarm, a poor battery life, and does not have an instant-on capability; it is also very expensive but that was not really an issue. The cPC is basically a very good idea and the price is quite reasonable for what you get, but the form factor is wrong: too big and heavy to carry in your pocket, too small for really comfortable use -- if you have to carry it in your briefcase / backpack / purse, it might as well be more comfortable to use. Out of all the devices I looked at, (maybe 10?), I liked best the form factor of the HTC Universal (aka iMate JasJar, etc), but decided against buying it because there is no variant currently available for North America and it is having some teething problems. I think I will go for the HTC Apache, a Windows Mobile 5.0 CDMA smart phone. But when I am ready for my next device in a few years, I would certainly feel that another look at the cPC is called for. Good article!
Posted by ATechie (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Here They (Not We) Go Again ...
as history repeats itself once again, and they go building a chartreuse (not even white) elephant that no one is going to want, much less want to pay for. The sales weenies will _say_ that they would be willing to pay $1,500 for something like the cPC, but when it comes down to their bosses actually approving the purchase orders, fuhgeddaboudit. As others have said, this thing is too heavy, too thick, doesn't have enough communications options (especially if it's tied to only one cell phone service provider), and is just plain a camel (a horse, designed by committee). What will inevitably happen is that this company will discover, way too late as has happened countless times before, that the sales weenies' bosses won't buy them (lesson: knowing your prospective user base isn't nearly enough - you need to know what the users' wallet-holders will be willing to pay), and then the scrambling will begin (preceded by Unwarranted Enthusisam, Growing Disillusionment, and Rampant Panic, and followed by the standard Search for the guilty, Punishment of the Innocent, and Rewards for the Non-Participants). Right around the Rampant Panic stage, someone will bleat the hopeful, but depressingly naive, wish, "Maybe we can sell them to the general public, after all!" At some point, they'll wind up being flogged on eBay for a few hundred bucks (I got a pretty cool SonicBlue/ProGear early tablet PC, before Microsloth figured out what those were, for a few hundred bucks after it couldn't be sold to businesses for - guess how much - yep, $1,500!).

The highway of history is littered with the carcasses of companies making integrated products based on the belief that they were the Next Big Thing. The most recent example (before the cPC came along)is the abortive Motorola Rokr cell phone/iPod disaster (well, if you think a device only capable of holding an anemic 100 songs qualifies as an iPod, and can't even download music over the phone connection - DUH!). This is so typical of the PC-think mentality that has had a stranglehold on the computing market ever since Microsloth started its felony monopoly strong-arm tactics with manufacturers and resellers. What's really needed is an industry standard for mechanical, electrical and software interfaces between cell phones, PDAs, pagers, PCs, etc., that allows anything to exchange any data with anything else automagically. The current rats nest of USB/Firewire/power cables, PCMCIA/Memory Stick/CompactFlash/SD cards, and insecure Bluetooth catastrophe is not it, either (although it may be possible to extend some combination of these to effect the required functionality). Customers are very leery (with good historical reason due to scorch marks on their hands from getting burned before) about buying into integrated products, and much prefer the ability to buy, mix and match components in a more incremental manner, because it allows for gradual absorption/adoption of additional features, and incremental upgrades and repair. The latter is especially important - how would you like to lose your PC, cell phone and PDA all at once when, not if, the integrated blob inevitably dies? As soon as someone cracks this nut, I'll be first in line to buy such products that can be integrated by the only ones qualified to do so - you and me.

All the Best,
Joe Blow
Posted by Joe Blow (175 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Appropriate User Name
Very appropriate handle, Joe. Feel better after that rant?

Your description of the history of "the next big thing" is a fit description of the history of all invention, not just the computer industry. Trial and error, market testing, many failures and fewer successes - all part of invention, innovation and business. The computer industry is no different than any other.

And, please, enough with the MS-bashing. Can't anyone here at CSet and ZDNet be more original than that? Bet you'd all sing a different tune if you were MS stockholders.

Any other hot air you wish to share?
Posted by HiBeamR (2 comments )
Link Flag
It's a spork!
A spoon and a fork, but not a very good spoon and not a very good fork.
Posted by (62 comments )
Reply Link Flag
...from the perspective of their target
The device is just slightly above the price we want, the CF slot fits into our requirement as we use CF card modems. Having a dual-OS means the users can switch between OS if power goes down low.

Using a bluetooth USB key can provide faster wireless connectivity, but there is no slot for LAN.

For all the flaming done, I think the device is nearly there, and I would like to test it out when it is available.
Posted by rabear (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Velcro
You can always Velcro your cell phone, MP3 player, laptop, and PDA together. Just think of the convenience of individually dockable components. For example if you're going into church, you can just undock the cell phone and not have to drag an entire laptop along.
Posted by eee4me (12 comments )
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