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December 1, 1998

IBM TO LAUNCH HIGH-END PC THAT CLIPS TO YOUR BELT

By CBR Staff Writer

IBM is gearing up for the launch next year of its first wearable PC; a device so small it clips to your belt but packs the same computing punch as a laptop machine equipped with a 233MHz processor. Big Blue has already demonstrated a prototype of the product and, barring a few last minute tweaks, it should be ready to launch the device some time in 1999, the company said yesterday. Similar to a walkman, IBM’s new wearable PC also features a headset (like a pair of headphones) from which protrudes a tiny eyepiece and audio earplug. By looking into the eyepiece, users get a magnified view of the display screen (now monochrome, although IBM hopes to launch a color version). The miniature CPU is effectively an IBM ThinkPad 560X shrunk to the footprint of a PalmPilot, complete with 340MB of storage and 64MB of memory. Users call up data by speaking into a little microphone attached to the headset and there’s a small, hand-held TrackPoint mouse device for input. The PC uses IBM’s ViaVoice speech recognition software to enable users to speak commands into the PC as well as its recently-announced (CI No 3,492) microdrive disk for storage. It’s ideal for those people industry who need to keep their hands free and who need to be able to access large amounts of information at the same time, said Russell Budd, the IBM researcher who leads the virtual display work at IBM Research’s lab in Yorktown Heights, New York, you’ll see people using these at aircraft flight gates, repairing your copier or tuning your car’s engine. Budd added that IBM envisions the device eventually taking off in the consumer market too, especially when the researchers have incorporated additional features, such as DVD video. But those products are still a long way off, he added. The entire system, including the battery, weighs 10.5 ounces. Budd said there was no pricing model yet, but given the product is effectively an upper end PC, it will be priced accordingly.

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