Expect the unexpected: Casio's elegant yet rugged 7.6-ounce industrial PDA with capacitive multi-touch (by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
Leave it to Casio Business Solutions to introduce one elegant, innovative industrial PDA after the other without ever letting anyone know. They did it again with the Casio IT-300, a unique new implementation of the industrial handheld, and the first we know of with capacitive multi-touch.
As of mid-2011, it's obvious that conventional vertical market handheld computers are at a crossroad. That's because these types of devices have predominantly been based on Windows CE for going on a decade and a half, and at this point the future of Window CE seems uncertain. Ever since the Apple iPhone came onto the scene, handheld device operation has undergone a complete paradigm shift, moving from stylus-operated pared-down versions of desktop operating systems to effortless tapping, pinching and swiping on high-res capacitive multi-touch displays.Microsoft itself made a bit of an effort to adapt at least the look of Windows Mobile to the new world order, but concentrated most of its efforts on the consumer market Windows Phone 7, which is not compatible with earlier Windows CE/Windows Mobile software. The result has been an increasing technology and interface gap between consumer and industrial handhelds.
Well, Casio's corporate motto is, or at least was, "Expect the Unexpected," and unexpected is indeed what we've come to expect from Casio. In this case, the industry-wide party line has been that capacitive multi-touch does not work in industrial handhelds, because those are used outdoors where it may rain or users wear gloves. Well, Casio introduced the capacitive multi-touch on the rather rugged IT-300 anyway. And not with Android, but with Windows Embedded Handheld that still provides a good degree of backward compatibility and application portability with the vast trough of Windows CE expertise, tools, and development resources (see Microsoft's Windows Embedded Handheld page).
But let's take a quick look at the Casio IT-300: What we have here is a sleek, stylish multifunction PDA based on the powerful Marvel PXA320 processor running at 624MHz. The large 3.7-inch capacitive multi-touch display offers full 480 x 640 pixel VGA resolution and uses Casio's "Blanview" LCD technology for optimal contrast and outdoor viewability.
In terms of size and weight, the IT-300 measures 3.0 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches and weighs just under ten ounces. That's a little larger and heavier than most consumer smartphone, but still small enough to fit into most pockets and hardly bigger than the latest generation of Android smartphones. For operation it's touch, and there's also a uniquely styled and quite elegant alphanumeric keypad with a additional function keys; we'd like to also have seen an alphanumeric keypad option.
The device includes an integrated C-MOS imager for reading both 1D and 2D codes and symbologies (UPC-A, UPC-E, EAN8(JAN8), EAN13(JAN13), Codabar(NW7), Code39, Interleaved 2 o f5 (ITF), MSI, Industrial 2 of 5, Code93, Code128(EAN128), IATA, RSS-14, RSS Limited, RSS Expanded, RSS-14 Stacked, and RSS Expanded Stacked). There is a micro-SDHC card slot for extra storage. For wireless communication there is Bluetooth 2.0 and 802.11b/g WiFi, but from what we can tell no WWAN option. The device does, however, support VoIP for voice communications.
In the ruggedness department, despite its sleek looks and small size, the IT-300 can handle five-foot drops onto concrete, carries IP54 sealing, and has a very wide operating temperature range from -4 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. And it's got decent battery life (about ten hours between charges).
Casio promos primarily position the IT-300 for retail, point-of-sale, healthcare and service deployment. Casio also emphasizes the unit's unique suitability to quickly and easily peruse PDF and Office documents. This is where the multi-touch zooming, panning and rotating comes in handy. We haven't seen how well it works in person, but between Microsoft's efforts to provide a degree of touch friendliness in Embedded Handheld and the capacitive screen, this should work a whole lot better than a stylus on a resistive digitizer.
Below is a promotional YouTube video that shows intended applications and features of the Casio IT-300:
Specifications Casio IT-300
Marvell PXA320/624 MHz
Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5
Sunlight-viewable Casio "Blanview" color TFT with LED backlight
3.7"/480 x 640 pixels
Numeric keypad with numeric/alphabet keys, CLR key, execute, cursor keys, power, Fn key, F1 to F4 keys, trigger