Anyone who’d been wondering why Phillipe Kahn, the former founder, chairman president and chief executive of Borland International Inc was so keen to buy his old company’s pop-up scheduler program Sidekick a couple of years ago for his new company Starfish Software Inc (CI No 2,603) might have known he’d got something up his sleeve, and that’s precisely where it may soon end up, up his sleeve, on his wrist or in his shirt pocket. Starfish has recently stuck its head above the parapet to announce REX (CI No 3,222), a credit card-sized hand-held computer that can store up to 2,500 items of electronic calendar and address information sucked down from a personal computer or laptop version of Sidekick, or other personal information programs such as IBM Corp’s Lotus Organizer and Microsoft Corp Outlook or Schedule+. REX, or Rolodex Electronics Xpress, was built in Japan by Citizen Watch Co and will be sold and marketed under the Rolodex brand name by Franklin Electronics Publishers Inc of Burlington, New Jersey. Starfish said it went to Citizen because it needed someone that could build tiny, wearable products. REX does not have any printed circuits, but uses a unique chip on glass technology, Starfish says. REX is basically a PC Card with a screen. Weighing just 1.4 ounces, it is the size of a credit card and the thickness of a stack of four credit cards. It slots directly into any notebook computer with a PC Card slot, or for desktop computers there is a cradle that plugs in to the serial port and enables data to be drawn down into the REX. It comes with Starfish’s TrueSync operating system and MicroApplications, basically a cut down version of Sidekick, as well as TrueSynch synchronization software. For users of the Sidekick personal information manager, data is synchronised directly to REX. At the moment, users of Lotus Organizer and Microsoft Outlook or Schedule+ have to draw data down into Sidekick first, in order to then synchronize it to the TrueSync information manager on the REX. Starfish is currently working on a new version of TrueSync, TrueSync 98, which will automatically synchronize data direct from Microsoft Outlook or Schedule+. It should be available by the end of the year. Anyone that does not yet have personal information software on their PC will get everything they need supplied with REX, with the TrueSync information manager. The TrueSync MicroApplications include a diary, address book, to do lists, memos, an EarthTime world clock and preferences Toolkit, and they run in less than 128Kb of ROM. REX will operate for two months on two watch batteries.
The top of a pyramid
Starfish positions the product at the top of the pyramid, where desktop computers are at the base, notebooks at the next level, handheld devices including things like 3Com Corp’s PalmPilot are the next level, and finally at the tip of the Pyramid sits REX. REX has no input device at all, and is simply for reading off information as required, but it is its size and portability which should sell it. However, Starfish is by no means totally dependent on the REX, which it has spent the past three years developing. The company has already signed several licensing deals for its TrueSync technology. Earlier in the year it announced a deal with General Magic Inc, to provide business information management software for General Magic’s Serengeti integrated voice mail, pager and electronic mail system (CI No 3,153). It also has a technology development alliance with Canadian real time operating system developer QNX Software Systems Inc (CI No 3,209) and recently announced a joint development deal with Motorola Inc to provide time, task and contact management systems for Motorola’s Flex OS operating system for its smart phones and pagers. In conjunction with the Palm Computing division of 3Com Corp’s US Robotics, Starfish has also released TrueSync for the Palm Pilot. REX is available now in the US, at $130 for the entry level 64Kb version, and $180 for the 256Kb version. The desktop cradle costs $40 extra. It is selling in Franklin’s retail outlets in the US, including Sharper Image stores. It should ship in Europe in December or early January.
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