Itronix meeting rugged requirements

Itronix Corp., a manufacturer of ruggedized mobile computers, is one of three finalists for a major Air Force contract that will standardize the portable computing equipment for the service's maintenance and field personnel, the company announced this week at the FOSE trade show in Washington, D.C.

The Itronix XC6250 Pro is up against three of Panasonic's Toughbook models and an Amrel Systems Inc. Rocky II+. The Itronix notebook was the only one that passed all of the Air Force's stress tests during an exercise last year at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, said Corey Harper, federal business development manager at Itronix.

The tests included routine ease-of-use checks with the keyboards, screens and mouse controls. The Itronix survived, then gained an advantage because the other companies declined to participate in the "drop test," said Master Sgt. Steven Carlson, a system administrator at Nellis.

The final hurdle was a thermal test conducted on the F-16 flight line in temperatures that exceeded 130 degrees. The Itronix machine achieved the baseline requirements, but the competition didn't fare as well.

"The Panasonics were the first to go, and the Amrel went after that," Carlson said. "We even put a Gateway [Inc.] Solo in a Samsonite [Corp.] leather case, and it did better than the Panasonics. So a non-rugged machine did better than semi-rugged machines."

Carlson said more testing will be done this summer on the machines because last August's test, while exceeding 130 degrees on the flight line, was "nowhere near as hot as it gets."

While the Air Force's final decision of the overall contract won't be made until later this year and the funds won't be available until early 2002, Itronix is hopeful that its past and future performance will keep the company's product in the lead, said Bob Morrow, industry marketing manager for the government sector at Itronix.

The Itronix machine is available through CDW-G Inc.'s General Services Administration schedule and ranges from $4,400 to $5,800, with the higher end including a "three-year, no-questions-asked accidental breakage" warranty, Harper said.

In other Itronix news, the company's GoBook, which was launched in October 2000 and is receiving heavy interest from many agencies, including the Army, soon will add new features.

By next quarter, the machines will include a backlit keyboard designed for users who don't want to give away their position while using the computer, product manager Wally Starr said. The GoBooks also will be outfitted with Intel Corp. Pentium III processors, he said.

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