frontpath Announces Mobile Internet Appliance
Written By: R. Krause
Published On: October 11 2000
frontpath Announces Mobile Internet Appliance
frontpath press release]
September 27th, 2000 -- Fontpath, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of S3
Incorporated, today announced ProGear. ProGear is frontpath's Information
Appliance targeted to the vertical market segments. ProGear couples hardware
and software to deliver one of the first ever wireless, truly portable,
untethered, broadband-based products capable of enabling vertical partners
to fully customize content. frontpath says it will initially focus on
the travel, education, entertainment, and medical markets.
supports all rich media formats and offers a high quality 10.4" TFT display,
X 86 compatibility and a touch screen that will enable quick access to
applications or the Internet. A soft keyboard or handwriting recognition
gives users the choice of input modes. The three- pound product comes
with a Soundblaster compatible audio and microphone/headphone support.
ProGear comes standard with a three cell, three-hour battery. As upgrades,
ProGear has a six cell, six-hour battery and also offers a cradle with
integrated charging station. Both batteries are lithium ion with smart
available to frontpath partners in the US, the company anticipates that
the most popular configuration will be in the $1,500 range with the flexibility
to upgrade or downgrade features such as batteries, memory, cradle, access
points, keyboard and mouse. Beta units are scheduled to be generally available
in Q4, 2000 with quantity shipments scheduled to be available in Q1, 2001.
frontpath's approach differs from the rest of the market in a few ways:
business/vertical users, as opposed to home users
approach is intriguing. We can envision a mobile user connecting to a
"gortal", (groupware portal) such as salesforce.com, to
upload or download important information from that latest hot sales call,
etc. The major competition in the wireless space is likely to come
from Symbian-based and the other wireless gear such as Palm/Motorola devices.
the business crowd, especially vertical markets such as medical, is a
big change from the current "let's sell appliances to people who can't
afford a real PC" mindset. We can see some vertical markets having a need
for wireless connectedness - being able to download a patient's records
instantly to an appliance would probably make a doctor's life easier.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles provides Palm devices to allow
their physicians to do just that.
of a Web pad has been discussed often in recent months, and Transmeta
showed a model at PC Expo in June. The functionality and portability of
the ProGear look good, but we question whether it isn't a little too big
and heavy. Three pounds is light compared to most notebooks, but by the
end of the day, even three pounds gets to be a bit much.
the wisdom of such a (relatively) high price. The ProGear certainly has
lots of high-end features: lots of RAM (64 or 128MB), optional hard drive,
high-resolution display. But will people really pay the extra $1000 (over
portable devices such as a Palm VII or Psion's revo Plus ) for a portable
Web surfer? frontpath's targeted applications will help it make a case
for the extra cost, but they will need to provide a significant number
of targeted apps to get broader market appeal.
We do not
see this as a complete offering yet. frontpath has tied its fortunes,
at least partly, to those of cyberPIXIE, a "broadband wireless infomediary
company" which, curiously, is also targeting the hospitality, travel,
sports and entertainment industries. (What, no health care?) This appears
to mean that if your ProGear is not within spittin' distance of a cyberPIXIE
transceiver, you're SOL ("Sorry, Out of Luck"). Until cyberPIXIE has built
up enough customers (whether alone or jointly with frontpath), we expect
coverage to be sparse.
To paraphrase frontpath's statements: this product is not for everybody.
Companies looking to replace their PCs with Internet/information appliances
will have little need for the ProGear unit - it's not aimed at desk-bound
employees. However, companies in the targeted markets (healthcare, travel,
education) with highly mobile (within the building) workforces needing
Web access may find this device useful.
of the concerns mentioned , we can not yet recommend this system as a
panacea for the target markets. However, we believe there may be a decent
future for this product set.
considering this system must be sure to ask enough questions, such as:
- How much
will building up the infrastructure (i.e., transceivers, servers, etc.)
my specific needs be met by frontpath's packaged applications?
what conditions will I be able to take this on the road and still have