Updated October 2, 2006 The prospects of one day having our computers all able to withstand the hostile environment that is the real world moved a step closer this week when rugged electronic systems specialist Black Diamond Advanced Technology announced the SwitchBack PC , the world's first rugged UMPC (Ultra Mobile Personal Computer). The SwitchBack made its debut at the Embedded Systems Conference in Boston this week and utilizes a 1.0 GHz Intel Celeron M processor, 1GB of 400 MHz DDR2 and can run Windows XP, CE, Mobile or Linux, packing the power of a desktop PC in a lightweight, handheld rugged form factor. The SwitchBack has all the features of today's rugged handheld tablet PCs, but it's smaller, more powerful and it has another significant differentiator ... a detachable/attachable Module on the back which can be used to extend functionality by adding additional hardware, devices or connector interfaces. Examples of modules that can be added include an additional processor, hard drive or battery, custom I/O options (data transfer, interface extensions), a fingerprint reader, an RFID, Barcode Scanner or Mag Stripe Reader, terrestrial radio(s), digital camera, GPS receiver, breathalyser and a Laser Range Finder.
Its advanced feature set answers the demands of users working in the field or in harsh environments. Encased in a magnesium housing and reinforced with rubber isolators and shock-mounted electronics, the SwitchBack is designed to meet or exceed military specifications (MIL-STD) for shock, vibration, humidity and extreme temperatures.
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Equipped with a built-in thumb keyboard, up to 60GB removable hard drive and a 5.6-inch WSVGA sunlight viewable touch screen with stylus, it can be easily used outside or on the go and in unpredictable conditions. Wireless capabilities are Bluetooth 2.0, WiFi b/g and GPS. Initial markets for the product include the military, field service and utilities, transportation and logistics and public safety.
"As the first rugged offering in this platform, the SwitchBack PC can potentially address a real need for improved workflow efficiencies and real time communication in industrial environments -- where form factor is critical," said Joe Jensen, general manager, Intel Modular Platforms and Programs. "Intel is addressing this market segment by delivering low power technologies that enable this new category of small, thin and light devices."
The SwitchBack has all the features of today's rugged handheld tablet PCs, but it's smaller, more powerful and it has another significant differentiator ... a detachable/attachable Module on the back which can be used to extend functionality by adding additional hardware, devices or connector interfaces.
Examples of modules that can be easily added to the SwitchBack are, but are not limited to, an additional processor, hard drive or battery, custom I/O options (data transfer, interface extensions), a fingerprint reader, an RFID, Barcode Scanner or Mag Stripe Reader, terrestrial radio(s), digital camera, GPS receiver, breathalyser and a Laser Range Finder.
"What makes the SwitchBack unique to anything we've seen on the market is undoubtedly our patent-pending Modular Technology, where the user can extend functionality by actually attaching a custom Module to the back of the computer," said Justin Dyster, President of Black Diamond. "This unique design was built to give organizations more options when considering a technology refresh. For example, the SwitchBack can actually be utilized in many different ways within one organization. And custom I/O modules can even allow you to interface with a vast array of existing equipment using a single machine. As organizational needs change, the PC can change as well, making it extremely cost-efficient."
"The SwitchBack PC's intrinsic modular design allows for a tremendous amount of flexibility and efficiency," said Chris Shipley, co-founder of Guidewire Group. "Unlike other rugged computers on the market today, the SwitchBack is an open-system and offers vertical market customers a cost-efficient model for buying, managing and maintaining their IT assets, depending on their custom applications and budget."
Multiple Operating Systems
SwitchBack PCs available in Q2 2007 will be capable of running multiple Operating Systems simultaneously or independently. Choose from Windows XP, Windows Mobile, Windows CE and Linux.
Run Them Independently For Extended Battery Life
Switch back-and-forth between a primary and a secondary Operating System in a dual boot configuration to extend battery life by up to three times.
For example, users can conserve power by running Windows CE to perform simpler tasks and switch to Windows XP for more complex tasks – while still having access to the same data on the hard drive.
Run Them Simultaneously For Increased Productivity
Run dual Operating Systems simultaneously to save time and view data from two different programs. Through simultaneous program execution, you can perform simple tasks in parallel to running more complex tasks with the other Operating System. For example, you can view data from a program running on Windows XP and another on Windows CE -- all on the same screen, fluidly and without interruption.
SwitchBack PCs available in Q4 2006 will be Windows XP systems only, with the ability to receive downloadable hardware upgrades for dual processor and simultaneous task operation in Q2 2007. This downloadable hardware upgrade demonstrates SwitchBack's revolutionary capability to receive engineering updates after the product has shipped.
Parallel Processing Capability -- The SwitchBack operates on a primary processor located on the system motherboard, while it outsources parallel processes to a secondary system board that has the capacity of an additional processor. The "Parallel Processing Capability" of the SwitchBack provides the ability for its core system to apply the right processor needs to a given task so that it runs more efficiently. Tasks that would otherwise require twice the power and time to complete can be accomplished quicker and more efficiently with the SwitchBack. This type of performance has never before been seen in a unit of this size.
Removable Hard Drive – Quickly stow away sensitive data without taking the machine with you or move information from one system to another.
Hot Swappable Battery -- Revitalize your power supply instantaneously out in the field without having to shut down your computer.
Self-Diagnostics Tool -- The SwitchBack automatically runs a self-diagnostics tool, reducing downtime and helping to troubleshoot in the field.
The SwitchBack PC will be available Q4 2006 through Black Diamond Advanced Technology. No pricing has been released as yet.View gallery - 6 images