A new product on show at the Live2001 show allows handwritten notes and diagrams to be entered straight into a PDA.
Seiko Instruments is due to launch the SmartPad2e in the UK this month. The device is compatible with a wide range of PDAs such as the Palm III series, the Handspring Visor range and Sony's Clie.
The SmartPad2e is around 330mm by 240mm when opened, and resembles a typical executive carry-case. When users write on the SmartPad2e's A5 notepad with an infrared pen -- which doubles as a stylus -- everything they draw is immediately sent to their PDA.
The SmartPad2e also boasts a touch-sensitive keyboard which is over twice the size of an on-screen keyboard. These methods, according to Seiko, are a significant improvement on the alternative methods available.
"PDAs are great products, but users are restricted by the limited ways of entering data," said Matt Dyson, Seiko's sales manager for the UK and Scandinavia. "The standard on-screen keyboard is very fiddly, and you have to be exceptionally good at graffiti text entry if you're going to use it to take notes during meetings."
One page of drawing takes up only around 12kb of space, saved as a GIF file. Users could transfer the information to their PC the next time they synchronise, or could even email the file.
The SmartPad2e will cost £169.99, and can be bought from retail stores such as Dixons, PC World and Staples.
Dyson would not say how many units Seiko are hoping to sell in the UK, but he believes there is a substantial potential market. "There are a very large number of potential customers in Britain, because the SmartPad2e is compatible with a wide range of PDAs, even the Palm III which launched around three years ago," he said.
It's possible that the SmartPad2e could even lead to an increase in PDA sales. "Some people have been showing a great deal of interest in the SmartPad2e, even though they don't even own a handheld computer yet," said Dyson.
Similar technology is used by IBM. The US manufacturer recently launched a laptop which would wirelessly link to a writing pad.
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