MicroTouch undercuts competition with $499 PC whiteboard product

MicroTouch Business Products Division a unit of MicroTouch Systems Inc. announced today a PC whiteboard product that undercuts competitors' pricing by at least $1 000 and is slated to appear on the General Services Administration's schedule early next year.

Electronic whiteboards are designed to replace flip charts as a means for workgroups to sketch out ideas and conduct brainstorming sessions. High-end whiteboard products can cost tens of thousands of dollars. PC-based products cost considerably less but MicroTouch's Ibid whiteboard pushes it to a new level at $499. MicroTouch is based in Tewksbury Mass.

"I haven't seen any price that's lower " said Jack Gold a program director with The Meta Group Westport Conn. "They have really set a new price point with this new product."

In the federal market whiteboard products have become popular for conducting business process re-engineering sessions and for training. Greg McHale president of MicroTouch Business Products Division said his company plans to get the product on the GSA schedule through Government Technology Services Inc. In the meantime federal agencies will be able to purchase the product through various computer and office supply retailers.

The product will start shipping Nov. 1. Beta versions are in use in Utah's emergency management agency and in the management information systems department of the Mayor of New York City's office.

MicroTouch's Ibid whiteboard has a 2 foot-by-3 foot writing surface and is connected to a PC via a standard serial communications port. A user selects a pen color from a set of icons on the whiteboard and draws on the whiteboard with a marker. The information written on the whiteboard is captured by the PC and can be date/time-stamped and stored for future reference.

The Ibid software can format the information as bit map or a Windows Metafile. The files can be embedded in most Microsoft Corp. Windows-based applications including electronic mail presentation software and word processing.

The software portion of Ibid will initially run under Windows 3.1 3.11 and 95. In December the product will also support Windows NT. The minimum hardware requirement is a 25 MHz 486 PC with 8M of RAM and 10M of free disk space.

Ibid's whiteboard component takes advantage of MicroTouch's touch screen technology developments according to McHale. MicroTouch is the leading touch screen supplier worldwide the company said. Ibid uses resistive touch technology which McHale said is durable and low-cost hence the product's low price tag. "We've moved [the whiteboard] down to a price point where it's just another computer peripheral " McHale said.

Competing PC whiteboard products are priced well above the mark set by MicroTouch. Microfield Graphics Inc. a Portland Ore. company has a PC whiteboard product called SoftBoard that is priced at $2 795.

SMART Technologies Inc. Calgary Alberta markets Office Smart Board which costs $1 499 according to a company spokeswoman.

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