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Motorola MC55

New mid-range "Enterprise digital assistant" combines various functions into one device
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

On March 9, 2009, Motorola introduced the MC55 EDA. EDA stands for "Enterprise Digital Assistant" and describes Motorola's intent to provide a small, yet tough and durable device that serves different workers in different environments in a variety of functions. In essence, the MC55 combines a cell phone, a bar code scanner, a camera, a walkie talkie and a mobile computer all into one small and handy device.

The MC55 is an addition to a line of ruggedized PDAs that started when Symbol Technologies (now part of Motorola) first offered an industrial, scanner-equipped version of the then enormously popular Palm III (see Symbol SPT 1550) in 1998 or so. Symbol then began offering industrial and enterprise-class Microsoft Windows CE-based Pocket PCs like the PPT 2700. From that emerged a class of small enterprise handheld computers geared towards communications and data capture requirements of mobile workers that had its start in the Symbol MC50 that received Pen Computing Magazine's Editor's Choice award in 2005. Today's lineup of Motorola Enterprise Digital Assistances includes the small MC35, the newly introduced MC55, and the top-of-the-line MC75:

Above: Motorola's Enterprise Digital Assistants MC35, MC55, and MC75

Where does the MC55 fit in? It is for workers who need something more rugged than the smallish MC35 with its 2.8-inch display but somewhat less costly than the no-holds-barred MC75 with its 3G/3.5G communications options and full VGA display.

Like Symbol's original MC50, the new MC55 comes in two versions that are quite different. The 5590 model is designed for workers "inside the four walls" whereas the 5574 model is designed for "outside four wall" use and therefore includes GSM/GPRS/EDGE voice/data communication capabilities. The "outdoor" 5574 also has a 44-key full QWERTY thumb-type keyboard whereas the "indoor" 5590 makes do with a 26-key phone-style keypad.

Both models run Windows Mobile 6.1 on the 520MHz version of the Marvell PXA270 processor, both have 128MB of RAM and 256MB of ROM, and both offer the same connectivity and expansion (microSD slot, USB, docking). Both have integrated 802.11a/b/g WiFi and Class II Bluetooth and both have a 2-megapixel camera. In terms of size and weight, the 5574s antenna adds a little bit of length, but both measure about 6 x 3 inches and are just over an inch thick. They weigh about 12 ounces. This makes the MC55 significantly larger and heavier than a modern smartphone, but it's still handy and able to fit into most pockets. The touchscreen display measures 3.5 inches diagonally and has an LED backlight. Both EDAs are VoIP-enabled, offering Push-To-Talk as well as soft phone client support and integration with already installed IP PBXs.

The MC55 is well equipped for data capture. Depending on the intended application, there are four possible data capture configurations: 1D laser scanner, 2D imager, 1D laser plus camera, and 2D imager plus camera. The 1D laser is Symbol's popular SE950, the 2D imager uses the SE4400 engine. An optional snap-on magnetic card reader is also available.

For communication, the "outdoor" MC5574 includes 2.5G quad band GSM/GPRS/EDGE and can therefore function as a standard cellphone as well as a wide area data communication device. The MC5574 also includes an integrated SiRFstarIII-based GPS.

In terms of ruggedness, the MC55 is far tougher than any commercial market PDA. It can handle 4-foot drops, is sealed to IP54 specifications where the "5" means it's protected against dust intrusion, and the "4" that it is protected against water spray from all directions. The operating temperature range is a a wide 14 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Motorola also quotes a "tumble spec" where the devices survive 250 1.6 foot tumbles.

One interesting detail about the MC55 is that it uses a glass-on-glass resistive touchscreen. This means that the top surface of the touchscreen is flexible "microglass" (typically 0.1 mm thick) rather than PET plastic, which makes it much more durable. The main market for glass-on-glass touchscreens today is in cars.

The MC55 comes standard with a 3.7V/2,400mAH Li-Ion battery. An extended 3,600mAH version is also available. Motorola lists a talk time of six hours and 100 hours standby for the standard battery.

In our conversation with representatives of Motorola's Enterprise Mobility business, Steve Schmid, Senior Director of Product Marketing, stated that Enterprise Digital Asistants such as the MC55 are meant to fill the gap between consumer PDAs and industrial devices. They also answer enterprise customers' need for longer product lifecycles. The specific goal with the new MC55 was to fill in a gap in Motorola's mobility platform architecture where the new machine serves as the mid-range, size-optimized offering. The MC55 is a cross-over product that's both sleek and rugged, serves as an advanced data capture device, and also offers robust voice and data communication.

Overall, the MC55 packs a lot of functionality (PDA, phone, walkie-talkie, data communication, GPS, scanning) into a single and fairly compact Windows Mobile handheld. At a price that's significantly less than the top-of-the-line MC75, the MC55 is suitable for a very wide range of vertical and enterprise applications. Make sure you're clear on the difference between the 5574 and 5590 models. The 5574 has GPS and phone/wide area data capability and a QWERTY keyboard whereas the 5590 does not have GPS or any wireless WAN voice and data and uses a phone-style keypad. It can get a bit confusing there.

Specifications Motorola MC55
Added/changed Added 03/2009
Form-factor Enterpise Digital Assistant
CPU Speed Intel PXA270/520 MHz
OS Windows Mobile 6.1 Classic/Professional
RAM/ROM 128MB/256MB
Card slots 1 microSD
Display type Transflective color TFT LCD
Display size/res 3.5-inch/240 x 320
Digitizer/pens touch/1
Keyboard/keys 26-key numeric or 44-key QWERTY
Navigation nav controls, stylus
Housing impact-resistant plastic
Operating Temp 14 to 122F
Sealing IP54
Shock 4 feet to concrete (two drops all six sides)
Size (WxHxD) MC5574: 6.0 x 3.0 x 1.1; MC5590: 5.8 x 3.0 x 1.06
Weight MC5574: 11.8 oz; MC5590: 11.1 oz. (with standard 2,400mAh battery)
Power 3.7V, 2,400mAH Li-Ion (optional extended battery 3.7V, 3.600mAH)
Interface USB 1.1 host and client, mic, speaker, 2-megapixel camera, 1D laser scanner or 2D imager; optional snap-on magnetic stripe reader
Wireless Both models: Bluetooth Class II version 2.0 EDR, 802.11a/b/g WiFi; 5574 only: 2.5G GSM/GPRS/EDGE, integrated Assisted-GPS
List price Starting at US$1,695
Contact www.motorola.com/mc55
Windows Mobile Info
  • Windows Mobile 6.1
  • Windows Mobile 6
  • Windows Mobile 5
  • Windows Mobile Smartphone
  • Windows Mobile 2003
  • Windows CE .Net
  • Windows for Pocket PC 2002
  • Pocket PC intro 2000
  • Windows CE H/PC Pro 1998
  • Windows CE 2.0 1997
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